UAE operator group Etisalat is unlikely to introduce standalone 5G for at least two years, and will instead focus on non-standalone (NSA) 5G architecture in this period.
This move will enable Etisalat to deliver 5G via its existing 4G/LTE network equipment ahead of acquiring the specific spectrum and deploying the dedicated infrastructure required by standalone 5G.
Etisalat Group Senior Director for Technology Strategy Hani Yassin described the strategy as “a phased approach to maximise our return on investment and get confidence in the technology maturity.”
Yassin detailed Etisalat’s plans for the mid- and long-term, noting that once its 5G core is ready (in the next three to five years) it will focus on the industrial applications of high throughput and low latency, including remote operation of vehicles and heavy machinery in scenarios such as ports.
In the longer term following this, the group will look at the applications of standalone 5G in mission-critical situations such as remote surgery and autonomous vehicles.
Etisalat was the first operator in the MENA region to launch commercial 5G in May 2019.