Future of 5G discussed at SAMENA summit in Dubai
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Future of 5G discussed at SAMENA summit in Dubai

Future of 5G discussed at SAMENA summit in Dubai

Three of the top five countries on a key GSMA 5G index are from the GCC, according to a latest study

Gareth van Zyl

Gulf nations are streaking ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to the rollout of 5G and 5G-Advanced services.

This was a key takeaway from the recently hosted SAMENA Council Leaders’ Summit in Dubai where top executives and experts from across the telecommunications sector came together at the Atlantis, the Palm Dubai on May 13.

The annual, international industry-leadership meeting this year was held under the theme of “Evolving toward Integration, Intelligence & Sustainability in Infrastructure”.

Key partners of this year’s event included the likes of TDRA-UAE, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Mobily, Zain, the World Broadband Association (WBBA) as well as Huawei.

“In our endeavour to create a connected intelligent world, Huawei is dedicated to developing industries across the Middle East & Central Asia by leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as 5G-Advanced (5G-A), Cloud, and AI,” said Steven Yi, President of Huawei for the Middle East, and Central Asia.

“Our goal is to build a future-ready ICT ecosystem that empowers businesses and fosters talent development in the digital sector at its core, as demonstrated by our commitment to innovation and collaboration with international organisations, industry leaders, partners and customers,” he added.

GCC a world leader in 5G

One of the keynote speakers at this year’s SAMENA Council Leaders’ Summit was Jawad Abbasi, who is the head of MENA at mobile industry body, the GSMA.

Jawad Abbassi, Head of Middle East & North Africa Region at the GSMA.

In a presentation that Abbasi delivered to the audience, he highlighted how the GSMA’s recent State of 5G 2024 report had featured Gulf nations prominently in the top five of its connectivity index rankings.

As part of the GSMA’s 5G Connectivity Index, it looks at factors such as download and upload speeds, the footprint of 5G coverage, number of subscribers, data traffic per user, and affordability.

The results were that three of the top five countries on the index are from Gulf nations. Kuwait had the highest score (68) followed by the UAE (59), Norway (58), Finland (57), Qatar (57) and Denmark (57).

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia ranked at position 12 in the index with a score of 52 on the index.

A snapshot from the latest State of 5G report shows how GCC nations dominate the top five countries in terms of connectivity.

“The highest performers are primarily comprised of developed markets in the Gulf, Scandinavia and Asia Pacific,” read the report.

“The 13 markets with a 5GI score higher than 50 (mostly in the Gulf and Asia Pacific) generally attribute their performance to the 5G infrastructure category. With the exception of two markets (the US and Saudi Arabia), all of them score above 50 in 5G infrastructure,” the report notes further.

During his talk, Abbasi also noted that “5G is the fastest growing mobile technology” ever as it has taken less than four years for 5G to reach the 1.5 billion user mark.


Following his presentation, talk at the conference shifted to how 5G-Advanced (5GA) is set to make a market entry into the GCC this year.

5G-Advanced is regarded as the next major milestone in the 5G broadband evolution journey, with features that include higher speeds, lower latency, better device positioning for GPS and greater integration with artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Abbasi noted that while 6G is still many years away, an estimated 96 per cent of mobile networks are set to employ 5GA in the next 3-4 years in the GCC.

“5G is an evolutionary process,” said Abbasi.

Meanwhile, Khalid Murshed, who is the CTIO (Chief Technology and Information Officer) for etisalat by e&, built upon the theme of 5G-Advanced being an evolution in the next step of this mobile broadband journey.

“5G brought us real broadband but it also introduced a bridge to other industries,” said Murshed.

He explained how e& has already conducted several key tests of its 5G-Advanced networks, including one at GITEX 2023 where it achieved record download speeds of 30Gbps.

As far as etisalat’s 5G roadmap is concerned, the mobile network is currently on release 17 of its 5G journey, one version away from 5G-Advanced. Industry experts have outlined how both version 18 and 19 of 5G are set to be the final iterations of this super-fast network before officially starting the 6G technology era.

“The importance of 5G advanced is that it will be the foundational layer for 6G,” said Murshed.

The 5G-A Leaders’ Forum panel. (Supplied)

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