Du to bolster FWA 5G play to challenge rival

Du to bolster FWA 5G play to challenge rival

UAE-based operator du is looking to build on its success in fixed wireless access (FWA) by launching more specialised consumer and enterprise products, as the operator pushes for more market share gains against main rival Etisalat (e&).

Speaking at Huawei Day 0 Forum on the eve (February 25) of Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2024, du chief commercial officer Karim Benkirane hailed the operator’s success in the UAE having doubled its share in the broadband market to 30% and gained 10 points of value share in the last three years due to the launch of commercial FWA 5G services.

Benkirane hailed FWA as a “huge opportunity” for fellow challenger operators for growth. In the UAE, du competes with state-owned Etisalat (e&) in a duopoly. The executive noted the UAE fixed market is “highly fibred”, and this presented a huge challenge for FWA to compete against established and reliable fixed services.

Through micro-segmentation analysis of the market, du found although despite near 100% fibre coverage in populated areas, 20% of households were not connected to fibre services due to high prices and long-term (two-year) contracts.

As 4G FWA customers were migrated to 5G, “we started to see really an acceleration of our growth and more adoption of the FWA 5G which helped us really to grow and increase our market share,” said Benkirane.

He highlighted du’s growth and repositioning in the broadband space stemmed from enacting key strategies to promote FWA 5G. The operator made FWA 5G competitive in price by slashing prices by 30% compared to the average fixed fibre broadband plan, and also target SMEs.

The popularity of FWA 5G brought du the challenge of high traffic on its network, pushing the operator to find a way to segregate FWA traffic, mobile, IoT and M2M.

Indoor coverage was also another major challenge, as mobile signal is inherently poor at penetrating walls, and FWA is a service that will be predominantly used indoors.

Pushing Ahead

Going forward, Benkirane said du will expand from the “basic needs” of its customers into more “highly sophisticated needs”, and noted this will be reflected when the UAE’s digital economy doubles its contribution to the nation’s GDP in 2025, as projected.

First, the company will launch an FWA 5G packages aimed at gamers who demand low latency high speed connections. Next the operator will package its internet offering with an Android TV or set-up box.

On its enterprise side, du will develop specific use cases. Examples Benkirane gave included connected cash machines to enable banks to deploy in remote locations, and equipping enterprises with connectivity for them to tap into reduced-capability (RedCap) devices, as RedCap devices are becoming more affordable.

“We believe that the strategy of building infrastructure with 5G-Advanced technology, needs to be reviewed and providers need to balance between how much they want to invest on fibre and on 5G-Advanced. Because we believe that 5G is going to deliver an experience that will be close to or even match the fibre experience.

“We are really excited about our journey, even though it has been a short three years (since launching FWA 5G), we believe that by moving from 5G to 5G SA, to 5G-Advanced that we are halfway to 6G,” said Benkirane.

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