There were indeed high expectations for what this year would bring in terms of the advancements of 5G infrastructure development across the globe. Despite rollout project delays due to Covid-19, we have seen the 5G revolution continue to accelerate this year and a realisation of yet more possibilities for the technology to transform our industries, cities and daily lives. As ever, progress has been uneven as technical issues around deployment arise and the industry is still working on demonstrating concrete returns on the huge investment needed to rollout the next-generation technology; there is still a considerable way to go before thefull potential of 5G is realised globally but at Ooredoo Qatar, we continue to make steady strides charting milestone after milestone in the evolution to 5G.
How much has Covid-19 changed the 5G landscape?
Amid the socio-economic challenges this year has brought, many opportunities have arisen for the technology and telco industries, and companies that have stepped up to capture these will emerge stronger from the crisis. In a world of physical social distancing, the importance of connectivity has been highlighted more than ever andcustomerneeds have rapidly shifted towards digital technologies that support their new work-from-home lifestyle andonline communication and entertainment demand. With digital adoption rates soaring and customers gaining a new openness to technology, the pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitalisation by years, propelling us firmly into the digital era for which 5G will be the cornerstone.
Tell us about Ooredoo Qatar’s 5G journey so far?
Taking an early lead in the market, Ooredoo Qatar launched its commercial 5G network on a 3.5GHz spectrum band in May 2018 and then opened mobile access to its 5G network for compatible smartphone users in 2019 with 100 live 5G base stations in Doha. The same year saw Ooredoo’s trial of the Arab region’s first international 5G call.
As of March 2020, along with our partner Ericsson, we completed a major upgrade of more than 2,400 sites across Qatar, allowing 4G and 5G traffic to run simultaneously on the same frequency band and radio hardware, rapidly enhancing the 5G capabilities and reach of our network. In July this year, we launched our 5G commercial services with Nokia’s cloud-native 5G core network, allowing us to deliver a wide range of services to retail and enterprise customers across Qatar.
Wehavealready exceededour goal of 90 percent 5G coverage nationwide, which we had aimed to achieve by the end of 2020, helping to enable our customers to maximise the benefits of streaming services, virtual learning environments, cloud gaming, and augmented and virtual reality applications. Furthermore, recent tests have shown our network can deliver speeds of up to 4.2 Gbps – ranking us among the first in the world to achieve this.
What are some of the use cases you’re trialling for 5G?
At Ooredoo Qatar, we are leveraging the superior speed and low latency of 5G technologies, seekingto usher in a new era of urban living by testing a variety of5G-enabled AI and smart city solutions on our network.For example, at Qatar’s 2019 Emir Cup, we tested our 5G-powered smart stadium technologies, equipped with intelligent autonomous drones, HD cameras and streaming capabilities, demonstrating the possibilities of customer service and security at mega-events. We also saw the potential of 5G through our Virtual Stadium at the Mall of Qatar in partnership with Ericsson,enabling an immersive sports experience with 12 + 1×360° cameras installed in the stadium.
We are also partnering with the Qatar Government to develop Lusail, Qatar’s first-ever planned smart city. It leverages 5G infrastructure to enable real-time insights on Lusail Light Rail’s performance, provide state-of-the-art security for critical national infrastructure and support smart transport innovations both in-station and via apps. Through leveraging 5G technologies, we can provide the network infrastructure and connectivity that form the backbone of Qatar’s digital foundation and, by enabling accessto efficient and sustainable services, support its ambitious smart country goals.
Ooredoo Qatar is also testing 5G usecases that can improve access to critical services, such as healthcare. For instance, we are currently testing a 5G-powered connected ambulance on our network that was developed jointly with Ericsson and is equipped with new state-of-the-art Ericsson IM technology that enables doctors anywhere across the world to treat patients remotely in Qatar.
What lies ahead for 5G in 2021 and beyond?
The rollout of 5G deployments worldwide will continue apace into 2021, providing millions with superior digital services. We can expect momentum to build for Internet of Things (IoT) use cases, such as enhanced health data capturing from wearable technology, improved location services and further development of smart city and smart office infrastructure. 5G is a world of new opportunities – brick by brick we will see new solutions being built.
At Ooredoo Qatar, we are looking ahead to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, taking place in Qatar, for which we have signed a contract to provide the eight football stadiums with our latest smart 5G technologies that we have been trialling over the last few years. All stadiums will be managed through a single control station, a global first-of-its-kind experiment, and we are working to ensure the tournamentprovides a truly outstanding experience anddemonstrating our 5G capabilities on a global stage.