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In an exclusive interview with Hasan Bulhoon AlShemeili, head of technology planning, du, he sheds light on the progress of the telco’s 5G investments, upcoming services motivated by new technologies and how du is benefiting from the growth opportunities within the MENA region.

Can you tell us a bit about your technology vision and what role 5G has played in its execution?

du continues to be a pioneer in 5G and network solutions as well as delivering best-in-class network infrastructure. We have investments allocated to develop the 5G network, enhance performance and efficiency and ensure customers avail of the very best communication services.

We have expanded 5G coverage across the UAE for our customers, so they can enjoy the experience and all the amazing use cases it supports. When du's 5G home wireless services started in 2022, users in the UAE were able to stream in high quality and choose from a wide range of 5G-powered options. They can enjoy live music performances, gaming tournaments and real-time online movie screenings in stunning clarity. du continues to extend its 5G coverage throughout the nation, with the aim of reaching the majority of the population over the next several years.

We understand technology investment return cycles are usually long; however, has du started seeing tangible benefits from its early investments in 5G?

We aim to utilize next-generation networks like 5G to enrich shared experiences by providing a fast and high-bandwidth network. By leveraging our 5G capabilities, we are designing and innovating use cases that take full advantage of this technology to transform client organizations.

The return on investment (ROI) is long-term, especially when an operator spends millions to deploy thousands of wireless sites. However, it gives us a competitive advantage in the market. Being in competition requires you to constantly be one step ahead of the competition. Further, to be the best requires some differentiation, and with the best customer experience being the foundation of our strategy, we have already acquired a big number of 5G subs and similarly for HWA subs, which we think the market has responded to very positively.

By developing a smart infrastructure fully prepared to run 5G and allowing all customers — both individuals and businesses — to reap its benefits while pushing the digital agenda forward, we could be a step closer to empowering digital transformation that will benefit the various economic and social sectors within the UAE as well as its sustainable vision.

What are some of the new services that the UAE public can expect from du in the near future?

Looking forward, du is committed to creating growth and opportunities for the UAE and enabling customers to fulfill their business needs by leveraging technology and our 5G network, and to succeed in the new digital world.

We plan to support the UAE government entities to help propel the country to the digital age’s new echelons through an innovative portfolio of products, services and mobile applications. We also aim to widen our portfolio of industry partnerships to spearhead innovation and drive success for stakeholders and partners alike.

How is du planning to support Metaverse and other technology-dependent initiatives set forth by the government?

The metaverse presents opportunities in terms of collaboration, problem solving, training and events across a wide range of industries. At the enterprise level, this opens up possibilities for businesses to create a more viable, interactive workplace. du aims to support industries in their digital transformation journeys by capitalizing on new technologies such as the Metaverse to develop new customer experiences and attract valuable business opportunities in Web 3.0 for the UAE and the region.

To be successful, service providers must understand the customer's desired outcome for the use case and develop a solution that meets their expectations. A collaborative approach is needed to ensure that metaverse use cases are managed and supported appropriately so that customer expectations are met. Such a new digital economy will enable customers and service providers to benefit from blockchain.

With the UAE being a business hub for the Middle East and Africa region, what is du’s message to enterprises based in the UAE?

We believe that MENA is a strategically important region, and du is one of the key stakeholders in the telecom sector. Therefore, du is well-positioned to benefit from the growth opportunities in the MENA region. With such a fast-paced diversification and technology enhancements, there are a lot of new business requirements on the market as well, especially in the enterprise domain. However, enterprise business requires a lot of cooperation from the industry and from partners to have a customized solution tailored for specific needs. To meet the high expectations of 5G applications, both the industry and players need to be willing to work together in order to identify a cost-efficient way of upgrading telecom infrastructures and systems.

Given 5G's diverse new capabilities, how is du preparing to best monetize them?

The launch of 5G HWA services created a stir in the market, as it opened up multiple possibilities for operators to enhance their businesses and create more value for their customers. We are in contact with several government and enterprise customers to come up with practical use cases that can be deployed in the UAE and serve the overall market. At du, we want to be ready to serve the country with eMBB, uRLLC and eMTC domains. It will be a difficult journey, but du is pursuing multi-dimensions aggressively and will be a pioneer in the MENA region with diverse services.

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