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Recent research revealed that travelers from Qatar and the UAE had the best 5G roaming performance within the Gulf region, while Qatar is the fastest destination for 5G roamers from within the region. Conversely, roamers from Kuwait and the UAE experienced a significant drop in 5G network performance when roaming.

Embracing and Assessing 5G

Ookla’s Speedtest Intelligence® data assessed the 5G experience of outbound roamers from select Gulf countries (Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) during Q1-Q3 2023 and compared their experience across different destinations and to their home network.

In general, Gulf travelers prefer using 5G roaming services within the region, possibly due to local operators offering affordable data or migrant workers using local SIMs to avoid roaming charges. Gulf operators are at the forefront of embracing 5G Standalone (SA) and roaming. According to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), five operators are currently evaluating, six are in the process of deploying or launching, and three are in the planning phase of implementing 5G SA and roaming.

Qatar and UAE

Roaming Destinations for GCC Users:

  • The UAE ranks as the top roaming destination for GCC users.
  • Following are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
  • Europe and the USA are identified as the next main destinations.

5G Roaming Performance in Q1-Q3 2023:

  • In Q1-Q3 2023, Qatar and UAE-based customers experienced the fastest median 5G download speeds when roaming.
  • Qatar's median download speed was 362.93 Mbps, while the UAE's was 225.46 Mbps.
  • Both countries demonstrated the lowest latency during this period, with Qatar at 76 ms and the UAE at 75 ms.

Network Performance Outside GCC:

  • Outside the GCC, Qatar mobile users faced a notable decrease in network performance.
  • For instance, in the UK, the download speed dropped to 31.59 Mbps, and the upload speed fell to 4.55 Mbps.

Impact on Roaming Latency:

  • Roaming latency increased significantly for both Qataris and UAE travelers.
  • Qatar experienced a minimum roaming latency of 255 ms, while the UAE faced a minimum latency of 235 ms.
  • This increase in latency can impact services such as video streaming, highlighting a potential challenge for users outside the GCC.

Exclusive: Vodafone Qatar Revolutionizes Roaming With 5G Dominance and Global Connectivity

Related News: Zain Omantel International (ZOI) and du Collaborate to Transform Roaming Services in MEA

Saudi Arabia

5G Speeds for Saudi Arabia-based Outbound Roamers:

  • In Qatar, Saudi Arabia-based outbound roamers experience high 5G speeds.
  • Download and upload speeds are notably fast at 199.15 Mbps and 25.93 Mbps, respectively.

Impressive 5G Speeds in Thailand:

  • Thailand stands out by providing impressive 5G speeds, surpassing other GCC and European countries.
  • Median download and upload speeds in Thailand are reported at 158.69 Mbps and 21.03 Mbps.

Download Speeds for Travelers from Different GCC Countries:

  • In Saudi Arabia, Qatari travelers enjoy the highest download speed at 362.93 Mbps.
  • UAE travelers experience good download speeds at 212.72 Mbps.
  • Kuwaiti travelers achieve a more modest median download speed of 83.53 Mbps.

Latency Comparison in Saudi Arabia:

  • Saudi Arabia provides lower latency for Qatari and Kuwaiti roamers compared to other countries.
  • The latency for Qatari roamers is 76 ms, while Kuwaiti roamers experience a latency of 132 ms.


5G Performance for Kuwaiti Tourists:

  • In the region, Kuwaiti tourists experienced less impressive 5G performance.
  • Download and upload speeds in Qatar were reported at 195.55 Mbps and 16.87 Mbps, respectively.

Roaming Download and Upload Speeds for UAE Visitors:

  • The UAE closely followed in second place for roaming download and upload speeds for Kuwait-based visitors.

Saudi Arabia: Preferred Destination for Kuwaiti Users:

  • Saudi Arabia emerges as the preferred destination for Kuwaiti users seeking lower latency, with a latency of 132 ms.
  • This latency is roughly half of what is experienced in other Gulf and European destinations.

Kuwait as a Roaming Destination:

  • Kuwait primarily serves as a roaming destination for inbound travelers from Saudi Arabia.
  • This is attributed to the limited number of Kuwaiti samples in other GCC destinations.

Decrease in Download Speeds When Roaming:

  • Visitors from Kuwait and the UAE experienced a significant decrease in download speeds when roaming compared to their home network.
  • The home-to-best-roaming-destination download speed ratio was 2.3x in the UAE and 1.9x in Kuwait, highlighting a notable disparity.

Related Feature: Connectivity Boost: Roaming in the 5G Era

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