Networking

Why the Middle East could be the first region in the world to adopt 5G

By 2025, there will be more than 50 million 5G connections across the Middle East and Northern Africa, according to a new report from GSMA.

The Middle East and North African region is poised to be first in the world to launch commercial 5G networks, according to a report from GSMA, published Monday.

By 2025, there will be more than 50 million 5G connections across this region, with 5G networks covering about 30% of the population at that point. Mobile broadband 3G and 4G networks account for about half of total mobile connections there today, and are predicted to increase to 70% by 2020, the report found.

"With rising mobile broadband adoption, growing subscriber numbers and increasing smartphone use, mobile is having an incredible impact across this diverse region, ushering in an era of innovative tech startups and new mobile services, as well as helping to connect the unconnected," Mats Granryd, director general of GSMA, said in a press release. "At the same time, we urge operators to continue investment in 4G networks to ensure future growth and encourage governments to set policies that promote technological, social and economic progress to create a society where all citizens can benefit from mobile technology."

SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE will be among the first countries in the world to launch commercial 5G networks, according to the report, due to high 4G adoption rates and government support in those areas. Telecom providers Etisalat and Ooredoo are already undergoing live 5G trials on speed, equipment, latency, and beam steering, with commercial launches expected in 2020.

In 2016, there were some 365 million unique mobile subscribers across the region, accounting for 63% of the population. This number is expected to rise to 399 million, or 65% of the population, by 2020. The mobile industry contributed more than $165 billion to the regional economy, forecast to rise to $200 billion as mobile continues to expand, the report noted. The mobile industry also supported more than 1 million jobs in the area in 2016.

North America currently leads the world in 4G and smartphone adoption, and will likely make the shift to 5G rapidly, according to a September report from GSMA. Fixed wireless will be the initial use case for early 5G deployments in the US, with full standardized 5G services expected to be implemented by 2019, the report noted.

5G is expected to fundamentally change the world's economy by expanding the boundaries of mobile, deploying the Internet of Things (IoT) on a massive scale, and enhancing mission-critical services to improve safety and security, said Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and group president of Verizon Wireless, in a keynote talk at Mobile World Congress Americas in September.

By 2035, 5G will enable more than $12 trillion in global economic revenue, and support 22 million jobs worldwide, Dunne said in the talk, driven by the digitalization of industries such as transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing. It will also transform how cities work, how healthcare gets delivered, and how children are educated, he added.

Because of all the business 5G can drive, it may lead to more startups and expansion of corporations in the Middle East region.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. The Middle East and North African region is poised to be first in the world to launch commercial 5G networks, according to a report from GSMA.

2. By 2025, there will be more than 50 million 5G connections across this region, with 5G networks covering about 30% of the population at that point, the report said.

3. By 2035, 5G will enable more than $12 trillion in global economic revenue, and support 22 million jobs worldwide, according to Verizon.

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Image: iStockphoto/spainter_vfx

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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