RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s push to develop 5G infrastructure is helping it score higher in the Gulf Cooperation Council region in terms of achieving strong growth in both speed, video experience and availability of the network, the latest industry report revealed.
According to a report published by independent analytics company OpenSignal, the Kingdom recorded a 5G availability of 28.2 percent, just a few percentage points behind Bahrain and Kuwait where availability is 34.9 and 33.6 percent respectively.
This is despite the fact that Saudi Arabia has a large geographical area compared to other countries in the region.
The report titled, “Benchmarking the GCC 5G Experience,” describes the availability of the 5G network — the time that users spend in an active connection with 5G — in Saudi Arabia as “outstanding.”
This reflects Saudi Arabia’s rapid growth in the 5G sector as it continues to expand its digital infrastructure with private companies. The Kingdom is also embracing advanced technologies to improve the 5G experience.
Earlier in August, the Saudi Telecommunication Co. increased its 5G infrastructure using an additional 5G spectrum to become the first operator in the Middle East and North Africa region to enable 5G carrier aggregation technology.
The network upgrade is expected to boost the 5G network capacity up to 60 percent and improve download speeds for subscribers.
The upgrade uses a 2.3GHz band spectrum for 5G across more than 1,000 sites in its initial deployment phase, and it will be carried out through the reuse of the spectrum initially used for 4G.
In March, Saudi Arabia conducted the world’s first trial of 5G transmitters 14 km above the land at the Kingdom’s Red Sea Project site.
The trial, touted to be the world’s demonstration of the High-Altitude Platform System using aircraft to extend a 5G service covering an area of 450 sq. km. aims to ensure continuity of services, extended coverage to remote areas, and increase environment-friendly technologies.
The OpenSignal report further revealed that the UAE ranked top among the GCC countries in 5G download speeds, as users achieved average speeds of 316.8 megabits per second, followed by Qatar with 278.5 Mbit/s, Kuwait with 263.4 Mbit/s, and Saudi Arabia with 234.4 Mbit/s.
The same four markets topped the list for 5G peak download speed as well, with a score of 743.3 Mbps in the UAE, 713.4 Mbps in Qatar, 663.7 Mbps in Kuwait and 635.9 Mbps in Saudi Arabia.
In August last year, a report published by Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission revealed that the 5G download speed in the Kingdom was 370.12 Mbps on average, and the recent OpenSignal report indicates that the Kingdom has leapfrogged in terms of 5G download speeds.
In February, Saudi Arabia’s operator Zain announced the rollout of the Kingdom’s first 5G standalone network as it aims to develop projects in vertical technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and robotics.
As expected, 5G upload speeds were approximately one-tenth the speed of users’ average 5G download speeds, as designers of 5G technology concentrated more on downloads than uploads, the report added.
Kuwait topped in the ranking of 5G video experience where users had an excellent experience with 75 on a 100-point scale. The video experience scale in the UAE is 72.4 points, followed by Bahrain and Saudi Arabia with 71.5 and 68.8 points respectively.
Saudi Arabia, however, was placed in the sixth spot in the 5G gaming experience ranking with a score of 59.7 on a 100-point scale. The UAE ranked the top in this section with a score of 74 points, with a clear lead over Qatar and Bahrain which both scored 69.6 points.
“In all six markets, users experience much improved speeds and video experience using 5G. While smaller markets top the rankings for 5G download speed, the position of Saudi Arabia is notable: its users saw a strong uplift in both speed and video experience as well as good 5G availability despite its size,” wrote OpenSignal in its report.
The GCC region is expected to have 62 million 5G mobile subscribers by 2026 and they will account for nearly 73 percent of all mobile subscriptions in the region, according to a report released last year by the Swedish company Ericsson.