While it may not be entirely clear how operators in particular are going to monetise 5G, there is certainly no shortage of announcements involving 5G rollout. Among the latest are three from the UAE, Iran and Sri Lanka.
The UAE’s Etisalat has said it aims to invest some $1.1 billion during 2019 on what it calls ‘digital transformation’, not least through the rollout of hundreds of 5G-enabled base stations by the end of this year. A pre-commercial 5G mobile network (using 3.5GHz spectrum) arrived in May last year. Expect 5G-capable handsets to be available in the UAE this summer. The company’s CTO, Hatem Bamatraf, has highlighted the advances that will underpin flexible, high speed 5G networks, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the changes these will bring, and stated that Etisalat “is already exploring use cases with new technologies and services that will blend our physical and digital world”.
It won’t be alone. In Sri Lanka Mobitel, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), plans investment of more than $50 million in 2019 to deploy a 5G network and to further develop its existing infrastructure. 5G trials are already underway, although it’s not clear when a mass-market launch will take place. Nevertheless, with 4G development also under way, it seems that the company’s 3G network will soon be dropped.
By contrast Iran seems to be some way behind, although 5G is said to be “high on the agenda” and preliminary work is already under way to allocate bandwidth and update regulations for 5G mobile services. The country’s aim, announced earlier this year by Iran’s ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, is to deploy 5G and IoT networks by the first quarter of next year.