Features, Insight, Opinion

How 5G in the Middle East is closing the digital divide en route to 6G

By Femi Oshiga, VP Sales, Service Providers, MEA & APAC at CommScope

In this fast-paced world of technology, the race to create the networks of the future is in full swing.

Public and private organisations have already begun suggesting how they believe 6G will differ from existing networks. Some have predicted that 6G will be AI native, focused on machine learning, compared to existing cloud-native 5G networks.

That said, we are at the stage where public and private organisations have just started to conceptualise the technology necessary for demonstrating this in 6G.

While the development of future networks might be years away, the present focus is on unleashing the full potential of 5G across the globe, especially in the Middle East and Africa. According to a report, The MEA region is home to 31.4 million 5G users. Saudi Arabia is leading the market in terms of users, with over 11.2 million subscriptions at the end of last year.

Alas, the road to 5G deployment has not been without its challenges, with labour shortages and supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic hampering progress. However, the progress did not stop, and the technology is now better than ever.

To benefit from the 5G Standalone (5G SA) infrastructure, you need a supported device. In light of an impending recession and the rising cost of living, upgrading to new devices for improved 5G digital connectivity might be challenging. Nevertheless, it emerges as an intelligent option for individuals and businesses alike.

Why we need 5G SA

Embracing 5G-enabled devices allows individuals to experience a whole new level of digital connectivity. With faster data speeds and lower latency, activities such as downloads, video streaming, and online interactions become significantly smoother. As economic uncertainty looms, reliable and efficient digital connectivity becomes increasingly vital for remote work, online learning, and maintaining connections with loved ones.

One key advantage of 5G is its support for various bands, including sub-6GHz and mmWave bands. This diversification of connectivity options empowers users to select the most suitable network for their specific needs and geographical location, ensuring optimal performance and coverage.

Furthermore, Investing in 5G-enabled devices is a strategic move to future-proof technology. As the world embraces widespread 5G adoption, older devices may become obsolete, limiting access to the latest applications and services. By upgrading to 5G devices, individuals position themselves to take advantage of the advancements in technology and connectivity in the coming years.

Where we need 5G SA

5G SA provides improved capabilities compared to the early versions of the technology. This includes supporting latency-sensitive applications, such as remote robotic control and augmented reality, which benefit from near-real-time responsiveness. Moreover, the high reliability of 5G SA ensures stable connectivity in challenging environments, benefiting autonomous vehicles, critical infrastructure monitoring, and healthcare services like remote patient monitoring.

Additionally, 5G SA enables extended IoT service capabilities. With its ability to connect several devices simultaneously, 5G SA is poised to revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem. It can support many IoT devices, from sensors and wearables to smart city infrastructure and industrial IoT applications. By providing seamless and efficient connectivity for a vast array of IoT devices, 5G SA facilitates developing and deploying innovative IoT solutions that can transform industries and improve overall efficiency.

Affordable Broadband: A Government-Company Collaboration

Governments worldwide are allocating substantial funding to support digital transformation and infrastructure development. To bridge the digital divide effectively, governments are expected to work closely with network providers and companies. This collaboration aims to identify areas with inadequate coverage, develop strategies to improve connectivity and implement cost-effective solutions that make broadband services more affordable.

Furthermore, the governments are interested in 5G SA capabilities, which can be used in various departments and sectors, such as the army, customs and border protection, general services administration, and more.

5G SA In The MEA Region 

The Middle East and Africa region is already racing with network advancements, and 5G SA is already available in many countries. Etisalat, a telecommunications company in the UAE, brought 5G SA to the country back in March 2023. STC, a telecommunications company available in various regions of the GCC, brought the technology as well to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

What after 5G SA? 

As we look beyond 5G SA, the next step in the evolution of connectivity is 5G Advanced. This advanced technology promises even more reliable connections and faster speeds, serving as the foundation for 6G. Du is collaborating with a leading global provider of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and smart devices in the UAE to build the infrastructure and foundation needed for 5G Advanced. In July 2022, Bahrain also revealed that it is working on building the foundation for 5G Advanced.

In conclusion, the march of 5G SA and its future advancements remains unstoppable. As individuals and companies embrace the benefits of 5G-enabled devices, governments and industry players are stepping up their efforts to provide affordable broadband and usher in a new era of connectivity. The stage is set for a world where seamless digital interactions and innovations become the norm, driving us toward a brighter and more connected future.

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