Features, Insight, Interviews, Opinion

Heriot-Watt academic discusses Telecommunications and 5G

By Stephen Gill, Academic Head of the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Dubai

What are the expectations about the telecommunications sector’s contribution to the UAE’s GDP during the year 2023? What are your estimates of the size of the UAE’s investments in 5G networks so far?

The telecommunications sector is a significant contributor to the UAE’s GDP. According to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE, the sector contributed 4.1% to the country’s GDP in 2020, which amounted to approximately AED 41.6 billion. As for the expectations about the sector’s contribution to the UAE’s GDP in 2023, it will depend on various factors such as economic conditions, market competition, technological advancements, and government policies. However, forecasts and predictions point to an expected growth in the telecommunications industry, driven by the increasing demand for high-speed internet and mobile services, the growing adoption of digital technologies, and the development of new services and applications.

Regarding UAE’s investment in 5G, in 2021, it was announced that Abu Dhabi ranks among the fastest capitals globally in the 5G network index, with the fastest median download speeds (421.26Mbps) in the first half of 2021, according to data from Ookla, a global leader in fixed broadband and mobile network testing applications, data and analysis. Additionally, the UAE is leading as the fastest fixed network in MEA [the Middle East and Africa] and fastest mobile network globally.

What is the impact of 5G networks on the economic sectors in the UAE in general and on digital transformation in particular? What are the fastest economic sectors to benefit from the 5G networks in the UAE?

The impact of 5G networks on the economic sectors in the UAE is expected to be significant. With its high-speed data transfer capabilities, 5G networks can support digital transformation through advanced technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence, which can drive innovation and productivity across many sectors. For example, in healthcare, 5G could support remote consultations and surgeries, and in manufacturing, it could enable the use of smart robots to improve efficiency and safety.

Recently, the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy announced that the UAE’s national digital economy is expected to surge from $38 billion today to $140 billion by 2031, as the Emirate successfully pursues its digital transformation journey, according to a new report. The deployment of 5G networks is expected to play a pivotal role in this growth. The availability of high-speed connectivity and advanced technologies supported by 5G could lead to the development of new digital products and services and the creation of new job opportunities.

How do you see the collaboration between ministries and organizations to achieve and consolidate the process of digital transformation to serve the knowledge economy in the UAE?

According to the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority, the UAE’s digital economy contributes 4.3 per cent to the GDP, with expectations that this rate will significantly increase in the coming period. The government of the UAE has taken several initiatives to achieve this through collaboration between ministries and organizations. The UAE Smart Government initiative is a great example of that, as it aims to provide seamless and integrated government services to citizens and businesses through digital channels. The initiative requires collaboration between various government entities to develop and implement digital solutions.

Additionally, the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority (ADDA) supports digital transformation through strategies, policies, standards, and enterprise architecture for increased government performance. ADDA enables government-wide digital leadership through innovation programs and global and local partnerships. Recently, the Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG) launched the Future Digital Leaders and Young Digital Leaders programmes in collaboration with ADDA. This is a great example of the collaboration between government organisation to support digital transformation.

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