The GSMA, an international industry trade body, forecasts that 14% of the world will have adopted 5G technology by 2025, led by the US with an adoption rate of 49%. However, Kuwait has frequently punched above its weight in the adoption of telecoms technology and enjoys some of the world’s highest mobile penetration rates. In line with its positive technology uptake, the country’s major providers are gearing up for the adoption of 5G and have begun testing their networks.
In early June 2018 all three of the country’s major operators were vying to become the first to unveil their new 5G technology services. Zain announced it had integrated the new technology in parts of its network. Meanwhile, Ooredoo demonstrated the use of 5G at its head office on Facebook live, saying it had the equipment in place to deploy data at up to 10 Gbps. VIVA also announced it had launched a public demonstration of the technology to show the service it could offer once approval had been received from Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA). CITRA responded to the announcements by acknowledging that 5G technology was being tested in Kuwait. Furthermore, it promised smartphone users and businesses the ability to transmit 10 Gbps or more, and revealed that 5G would use additional spectrum in the existing 4G LTE frequency range and new millimetre wave bands at 28-86 GHz, which can support up to 20 Gbps. Salim Al Ozainah, chairman and CEO of CITRA, said in a press statement in June 2018 that the systems would prove instrumental in transforming Kuwait into a technology hub.
As they work to roll out the new technology across their existing network infrastructure, the telecoms companies are teaming up with international partners to utilise the latest advances in equipment. At the GSMA World Mobile Congress held in February 2018 in Barcelona, Zain signed a memorandum of understanding with Sweden’s Ericsson to test internet-of-things (IoT) innovations on the enhanced 5G network. “5G will open the door to new applications that will transform consumer behaviour and industries,” Bader Nasser Al Kharafi, vice-chairman and group CEO of Zain, told international media in February 2018. In the same month Ericsson said it believed 5G would enable new applications in smart transport, connected cars and appliances, remote health care and remote control of machinery. The pact with Zain followed the signing of an IoT partnership agreement between Ericsson and Ooredoo Kuwait in December 2017, which took place at the IoT Conference and Expo in Kuwait. Ooredoo also discussed 5G, IoT and artificial intelligence with its strategic partner Huawei in April 2018. According to the GSMA, the technological breakthroughs necessary to introduce 5G technology have already been made, with operators able to choose whether to operate new 5G networks or to gradually integrate and upgrade the technology with their 4G infrastructure.
In order to ensure international compliance with a common set of principles, a global collaboration between telecoms associations, known as the 3G Partnership Project, spent almost three years developing specifications for the deployment of 5G technology. The completion of an agreed set of international standards in June 2018 was described as a key milestone on the road to commercial implementation of the technology.
Although mobile operators and technology companies are racing to make 5G technology available in Kuwait, uncertainty about the implications on existing business models remains. The 5G network is expected to allow for an exponential shift in the numbers of devices operating online, while also reducing latency, and in so doing, create new possibilities. “With the deployment of 5G, the rules of the industry will change completely, because it will not be just about speed, but also machine-to-machine technology and the IoT,” Essa Al Kooheji, chief commercial officer of local internet service provider QualityNet, told OBG.
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