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Up to 60 million 5G subscriptions in MEA by 2024: Ericsson

Initial 5G technology subscription in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) during the next five years – or by 2024 – would be almost double compared with the LTE/4G technology take-up for a similar period, Ahmed Ijaz, Ericsson’s principal consultant in Middle East and Africa, told Arab News.

The 5G subscription in MEA will reach 60 million users from 2019 to 2024, while 4G subscriptions topped 35 million users from 2011 to 2015 when the region saw initial LTE/4G deployments.

The 60 million number would be primarily dominated by countries in the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Ijaz added.

5G, or fifth generation technology, is a beefed-up version of the LTE/4G in terms of speed, capacity and responsiveness of wireless networks. Saudi Arabia was the earliest to deploy 5G infrastructure across the Middle East.

With 5G technology eventually going mainstream, industries such as oil and gas – such as the use of drones with high-resolution 5G cameras connected to them – could harmonize their operations towards efficiency, Wojciech Bajda, the head of Ericsson GCC, told Arab News.

“In Saudi Arabia, we find that the value of 5G will come from a select set of industries and these include the oil and gas sector,” Ijaz said.

The network will help the industry in terms of controlling the pipelines and making sure there is monitoring of remote areas, Bajda meanwhile said.

Smart transportation, Ijaz added, is another sector in Saudi Arabia that will implement the 5G network to help make road infrastructure safer in the Kingdom.

Smart traffic systems, for example – operating over a 5G network – could help ease the flow of traffic through monitored cameras and sensors.

On the consumer side, Bajda said that 5G technology for individuals is about experiencing better network speed.

“Today, especially in the GCC, video consumption is huge; people have better phones and higher resolution screens that will help provide better quality of service,” he said.

Mathias Johansson, Saudi Telecom Company’s (STC) head of customer for Saudi Arabia and Egypt, agreed, noting that one of the driving factors behind the large number of eventual 5G subscribers in the region would be the availability of 5G enabled smartphones.

STC and Ericsson signed in February a deal to deploy 5G technology in Saudi Arabia during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.