Sunday 26 April 2020

4G Connectivity in UAE becoming Ubiquitous

Mobile services in the UAE are primarily provided by two mobile operators: Etisalat and du. The country remains is a duopoly with two state-protected providers. Both of them are partly state-owned. Etisalat is the oldest and leading mobile service provider in the region with over half of the total mobile phone service market. Du launched just over a decade ago and has seen phenomenal growth thanks to their flexible plans and by-the-second billing system.

Picture based on Hootsuite / We are Social

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz up to DC-HSPA+. 4G/LTE is on 1800 MHz (B3) and 800 MHz (B20). The coverage of both operators is very good in the cities, populated areas and along the desert highways on 2G, 3G and even 4G/LTE, giving good speed and performance.

Etisalat is the biggest telco operator with 13 million customers and the best mobile 3G and 4G coverage in the UAE. It's partly state owned and more focused on the internal market. Their prepaid SIM called Wasel is open for 4G/LTE, already covering 90% of population. Etisalat quickly opened up stores in tourist areas and now competes with du for prepaid plans.

Etisalat was the first operator in the Middle East and North Africa region to commercially launch 5G service and the device in the UAE. The operator has tied up with Chinese smartphone manufacturer ZTE to offer the service. Subscribers using the ZTE Axon 10 Pro, the first available 5G device from Etisalat, can now enjoy the blazing speed of the 5G network up to 1Gbps and lower latency around 1 millisecond. However the 5G network will be available for all Etisalat postpaid, prepaid, consumer and business customers using a 5G devices. All customers will be able to use existing data packs on the 5G network.

Du is the second largest mobile network operator in the UAE and 39.5% state owned. They now care for about 9 million users and are preferred by most expats, migrant workers and visitors. Du has also rolled out its 5G network in collaboration with ZTE.

In Open Signal's latest report on the UAE mobile market, Etisalat’s dominance continues to prevail in mobile network experience. It won six out of our eight award categories and also established a new benchmark in Download Speed Experience with speeds averaging above 40 Mbps. In this report its was also observed that users in the UAE are finding it increasingly easier to get a 4G connection as both operators have now passed the 90% 4G Availability mark.

As 4G connectivity becomes more ubiquitous, the country is turning its attention to 5G. In November last year both the operators — Etisalat and du — were allocated frequencies in the 3.3GHz-3.8GHz spectrum range with 100 MHz blocks each to establish their 5G networks, and both operators launched their 5G services in the middle of 2019. Besides the frequencies mentioned above, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is also looking to assign further spectrum in the 24.25GHz-27.5GHz bands for 5G use ahead of the Dubai 2020 Expo, while it could also assign spectrum above 40GHz after 2020.

Etisalat held onto the 4G Availability award, increasing its score by 3.6 percentage points to reach 93.1% in the past six months . But du also saw its score jump by 3.3 percentage points, as both operators passed the 90% national 4G Availability milestone. Etisalat also won our inaugural 4G Coverage Experience in the country with a score of 9.6 (on a 10-point scale), while du was slightly lower with a score of 9.2 points.

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