5G regulation and law in UAE

Information current as of 6 January 2020

What is the state of 5G deployment in the UAE?

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (“TRA”) announced the implementation of 5G in December 2017, a project launched to coincide with the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) vision 2021 objectives. Through this initiative, the TRA established a Steering Committee chaired by the TRA Director General with three sub-committees, each designed to include representatives of all stakeholders across the UAE (operators, manufacturers, academia and users).

In February 2019, Etisalat – UAE’s biggest telecom operator – announced its partnership with Chinese company Huawei in respect of the roll out of 300 5G towers across the UAE.

In May 2019, Etisalat became the first service provider in the region to announce the availability of its 5G network, supporting smartphones for commercial use. It was soon followed by UAE’s second operator Du Telecom.

In October 2019 the UAE was declared as the first in the Arab region and fourth globally to roll-out and use 5G based on a study compiled by London-headquartered Carphone Warehouse. Countries were ranked on the basis of 5G connectivity levels and were selected if they had one or more 5G deployments and 5G connectivity in the pre-release stage.

Which telcos and communications players are launching 5G services?

Towards the end of 2018, the TRA assigned their 5G frequencies to the two telecommunication providers in the UAE – Etisalat and Du Telecom. Both were issued frequency ranges of 3.3GHz-3.8GHz

Are there any public tenders for spectrum licences?

No.

Has there been any comment on when there might be?

In the UAE, there are only two partially government owned telecommunication entities (Du and Etisalat) who are authorised to carry out telecommunication activities. There is no indication that the provision of telecommunication services will be opened up to another third party.

Are the rules for 5G already drafted, and if so, what do they say?

There are currently no rules or regulations drafted by the TRA in respect of 5G. We understand that the International Telecommunications Union (“ITU”) were expected to release standards at the end of 2019 but these have so far not been released. 

What are or would be the rules for granting competitors access to the new 5G networks, once they are deployed?

As mentioned above, there are only two government owned telecommunication entities in the UAE (Du Telecom and Etisalat), who are authorised to carry out telecommunication activities. There is no indication that this will change to enable any other organisation to provide a 5G network –however certain organisations may be able to provide 5G services on a white label basis using Du or Etisalat’s 5G infrastructure (as is currently the case with Virgin Mobile through Du – and the sale and use of Huawei 5G handsets through Etisalat).

Rob Flaws
Robert Flaws
Partner
Dubai