Qatar and some other Middle Eastern countries are “well suited to take advantage” of 5G, thanks to the investment capacity from operators, support from regulators and government initiatives focusing on developing the digital economy, BMI Research has said in a report.
As the standards for 5G networks have yet to be agreed upon, the launch of 5G by Middle Eastern operators is part of the global race to claim the first network launch, the Fitch Group company said.
“Nonetheless, the Middle East market is well suited for the early deployment of 5G, which we believe will be used as an alternative to fixed broadband and by the business sector to fuel the industries' digital transformation,” BMI Research noted.
While 5G plans by the US, China, Korea, and Europe have received most of the attention, it said operators from the Middle East have also joined the battle to be the first to launch 5G networks.
BMI noted that Qatar’s Ooredoo has announced plans to update 100 network stations within three months with 5G capabilities and with subsequent plans to expand coverage to the whole country with up to 1,200 stations.
However, BMI said, “Because 5G standalone standards are not yet definite, operators risk investing large sums into the wrong type of 5G networks. Moreover, consumer devices, such as smartphones, will not be available before 2019 at the earliest, limiting the market for 5G services at launch.”
BMI says it “continues to believe the early launch of 5G will have a limited impact, but in the long term it will positively impact” many industries through its focus on the Internet of Things (IoT).
In particular, BMI said Middle Eastern operators expect 5G to be “more attractive” to the enterprise sector and to fuel enterprise digital transformation, IoT, smart cities and the fourth industrial revolution. Ooredoo says it is already able to use its 5G network on specially adapted drones, which will then be part of a "national fleet of service drones, BMI said.
“We also believe the most immediate use case remains as an alternative to fixed broadband, especially in areas where fixed infrastructure is lacking. This is the case across many markets in the Middle East, with 2017 fixed broadband penetration rates of 7.6% in Saudi Arabia, 14.7% in the UAE and 21.3% in Qatar,” BMI said.