Etisalat, Ooredoo and STC launch 5G so early no one can use it

One of several firsts: Waleed Al Sayed, CEO of Ooredoo Qatar and deputy group CEO of Ooredoo launches 5G at the Ooredoo Tower in West Bay, Doha. Image credit: Ooredoo

Three mobile operators in the Middle East – Etisalat, Ooredoo and STC – have each launched what they claim is the ‘first’ live commercial 5G network, despite the fact that the 5G standards are not yet complete and 5G-compatible handsets won’t be commercially available for at least another year.

UAE operator Etisalat launched its commercial 5G network on Monday, claiming to be the first operator in the world to offer a live 5G service. However, according to The National, Etisalat will only be offering fixed wireless services at select locations:

Fixed devices and services will be available from September with the service gradually extended across the UAE, Etisalat says “depending on consumer demand and requirements”.

Also on Monday, Qatar’s Ooredoo also launched the world’s first commercial 5G network (on the 3.5-GHz band).

According to the press release, the first stage of Ooredoo’s 5G Supernet will cover the area from The Pearl Qatar to Hamad International Airport. The press release also says that using the 5G network requires a 5G-compatible device from Ooredoo. The press release does not say when said device will be available, or what form it will take.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s STC said it launched the first live 5G network in MENA. STC added that the launch is “the initial phase for operating the service once 5G special devices are available in the global markets.”

As of February this year, 18 device makers were committed to manufacturing 5G devices, but they aren’t expected to be commercially available until sometime in 2019.

The 3GPP completed the Non-Standalone (NSA) standard for 5G NR in December 2017. The standards for the full standalone version of 5G is expected to be finished next month.


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