• Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

One of the highlights for the telecom industry in 2023, especially for the mobile sector, was the decision at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) designating the 6 GHz as the global IMT. This decision ensures ample spectrum support for the advancement of 5G and the development of 6G.

This move by WRC-23 is seen as an important milestone in the next phase of 5G development. The GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide, estimates 5 billion 5G connections by 2030, with the GCC Arab States and developed Asia Pacific countries taking the lead. The Middle East has witnessed massive developments in 5G since the first commercial deployment in 2019. All the GCC operators have already deployed 5G with over 26 million users (and growing). The high-speed and low latency capabilities of 5G have opened the floodgates of business opportunities for all economic industries such as finance, banking, oil and gas, education and health among many others.

The rapid surge in connected devices seeking diverse digital services necessitates enhanced speeds to cope with the escalating demands on 5G networks. This surge is propelled by advancements in emerging technologies like cloud computing, IoT, blockchain, AI, and more.

The Need for 5.5G

The solution to meeting this demand for growth lies in 5.5G (or 5G Advanced)— an evolved and enhanced version of 5G. In contrast to 5G, 5.5G enhances network capabilities, delivering speeds up to 10 times faster for both uplink and downlink speeds, reaching 10 Gbps for downlink and 1 Gbps for uplink.

In addition, it enables innovative technologies like Harmonized Communication and Sensing (HCS), passive IoT, and intrinsic intelligence, paving the way for numerous new business prospects. Operators have the flexibility to adopt various strategies to transition to 5.5G, depending on their specific spectrum conditions and service needs— they can utilize the current high-bandwidth sub-6 GHz spectrum to attain a maximum downlink speed of 5 Gbps and an uplink speed of 500 Mbps.

Alternatively, they can employ new spectrum options like mmWave and frequencies above 6 GHz (U6G) to reach a downlink speed of 10 Gbps and an uplink speed of 1 Gbps. In addition, recent studies have indicated that the carbon footprint of future 5G mobile networks is expected to be lower if additional mid-band spectrum is made available.

Recognizing this need for higher speed for connectivity, the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) successfully conducted Phase II of the ‘5G Advanced’ trials project in cooperation with the UAE’s two telecom service providers, e& and du. In pursuit of this objective, TDRA seeks to harness the complete speed capabilities of 5G within the 6 GHz frequency range, utilizing a 400 MHz bandwidth. Additionally, the trial project aims to unlock the potential of this frequency band in enhancing the user experience in the UAE and reinforcing the country's standing in the identification and utilization of the 6 GHz spectrum at the IMT level.

6GHz will support the long-term prosperity of 5G and 5G Advanced. The 10 giga speed will facilitate faster data transfers suitable for unprecedented high-quality streaming and seamless cloud services. The trial will also enhance the IoT by providing the infrastructure necessary to simultaneously handle multiple connected devices, while ensuring seamless and reliable connectivity.

When Will 5.5G be Commercially Available?

In terms of standardization, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) officially defined Release 18 as the first release of 5G Advanced in April 2021. Release 18 will be frozen in the middle of 2024, marking the readiness of 5G Advanced for commercial use. Furthermore, the key technologies of 5.5G have been verified on the networks of multiple operators around the world, and the verification results meet expectations. For example, the world’s first 5G-A demonstration villa that was launched by du highlights the potential of 10.5Gbps smart living, including glass-free 3D and Extended Reality (XR) innovations.

Additionally, etisalat by e& launched an 18-page white paper highlighting its role in the country's transition to 5G Advanced and its commitment to global standards.

5.5G as a Service Delivery Differentiator

There are several advantages of 5G Advanced when it comes to service delivery. For instance, 5.5G can better support experience-based charging packages and immersive services such as glasses-free 3D/XR, which brings new revenue streams to operators.

5.5G can bring a better connection experience to homes by allowing operators to provision higher-rate packages. China has implemented successful large-scale reduce capability (RedCap) pilot projects and is ready to launch video-connected packages. Passive IoT has also been piloted in manufacturing lines with a 20% increase in production efficiency.

There is a potential uptake of 5.5G for connected cars with these devices likely to cross 500 million worldwide by 2025. This development is reflective of the growth in unmanned and autonomous driving cars in the UAE.

5.5G will also help developers automate the manufacturing process and implant digital solutions in the oil and gas sectors and support different all-scenario IoT to help smart logistics and smart transport.

The Stage is Set for a 5G Advanced Surge

In the Middle East, the UAE is positively on its way to becoming a truly global digital hub as part of the ‘We the UAE 2031’ vision. With that vision in mind, industry experts, representing prominent telecom companies, technology providers, and regulatory bodies,  joined hands to announce 2024 as the first year of the 5G-A era in the Middle East during the recently concluded 17th edition of the Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit in December 2023.

This initiative marks an important step towards establishing the 5.5G infrastructure as the next step leading up to the 6G era which is projected to launch commercially by 2030. The IMT-2030 (6G) Promotion Group released its 6G vision in October 2023, which covers six directions: immersive communication, convergence of AI and communication, ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC), HCS, massive connections, and ubiquitous connections.  Approximately 70% of the key technologies in these areas align with the existing 5.5G standards topics.

The knowledge-sharing and collaborative effort of the industry leaders and operators will be instrumental in establishing 5.5G as a catalyst for the 5G-to-6G evolution.

Pin It