At MWC22 Barcelona, Harry Baldock, Editor at Total Telecom, spoke with Etisalat UAE’s CTIO, Khalid Murshed, about the next steps in the evolution of 5G technology

According to the GSA, forecasting over 200 live 5G networks worldwide in 2022. As such, the telecoms industry at large is already beginning to look ahead to the next step in 5G’s natural progression. Industry standards body 3GPP is already beginning work on Release 18, which contains within it the framework for 5G-Advanced.  

Release 18 is expected to be published in March 2024, but what should we expect from 5G-Advanced?  

“At present, 5G-Advanced content covers 5G traditional enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), Internet of Things (IoT), ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC), vehicle-to-x (V2X) and other scenarios, as well as large capacity uplink, virtual reality and augmented reality (XR) services, high-precision positioning, ambient IoT, Integrated Sensing and Communication, and many other scenarios,” explained Murshed, noting the huge impact this new standard will have on the B2B enterprise segment.   

“[5G-Advanced] will support United Arab Emirates (UAE) industries and government sectors to deploy state-of-the-art 5G connectivity with inventive digital use cases requiring low latency and also high reliability. Etisalat looks forward to playing a leading role in the digitalisation of the industry with bespoke 5G and edge offerings,” he explained. 

The Middle East is a fascinating region when it comes to the deployment of 5G, with governments of countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE positioning the technology as a keystone for their future economic growth. Indeed, these countries are rapidly becoming technology hubs, not only for the wider Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, but even on the global stage.  

Emirati-based mobile operator group Etisalat has long been one of the world leaders in 5G. late last year, Etisalat announced that it had achieved 1,000,000, 5G subscribers. More recently, the company has launched a brand identity as e&, symbolising the Group’s desire to expand beyond the traditional telco model, directly target new verticals, and move up the value chain. Part of this launch involves a restructure of the business into several new divisions and the separation of consumer and enterprise units, becoming ‘e& life’ and ‘e& enterprise’ respectively. 

Against this backdrop, 5G-Advanced will provide the foundation for new services and revenue streams throughout the organisation.   

“Innovation is the main theme of eternal development, and it is also the driving force behind the development of the world. 5G-Advanced is not only an upgrade of communication technology, but also represents a new ecology and new opportunities,” said Murshed.  

Of course, developing these standards as a collaborative process and the industry must work together if the potential of 5G-Advanced is to be realised. In this regard, the GSMA is setting up a 5G-Advanced community to help stakeholders guide the creation of the 5G-Advanced standards and identify areas for future research.  

For Murshed and Etisalat, who are going to participate in this growing community, the success of the initiative will rely on achieving three key factors: firstly, identifying consumer and vertical requirements; secondly, improving awareness of the benefits of 5G-Advanced through marketing and industry collaboration; and finally driving joint innovation between operators, vendors, and industry players to create new and valuable use cases.  

“I think the community will be a good platform for people who are passionate about 5G-Advanced to benefit industries, connect with peers, share their knowledge and requirements, and build the ecosystem to support each other,” he concluded.  

Want to keep up to date with the latest developments in the world of telecoms? Subscriber to receive Total Telecom’s daily newsletter here

Also in the news: 
Crafting the perfect digital foundation: DE-CIX and the importance of regional expansion
TIM starts formal talks with CDP for building Italian single network
Connecting Germany: Building the fibre that underpins 5G