It's now a valid question to ask if Dubai is the most connected city on earth.
I was flying. Or something.
It was almost as if I had the vision of an eagle – everything was so sharp. Then again, I could have actually been an eagle; for some reason, I didn’t have a body.
OK, so this was VR, of course. But it was being shown in 5G. At the site of Expo 2020 Dubai, no less.
Oh, and there’s also this: it was the first live demo of 5G in the region, and the first Expo 2020 media roundtable at the Expo site.
Spoiler: it went off without a hitch.
That probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, Etisalat has announced it’ll be making 5G available once visitors start pouring into Expo 2020 in October, 2020 – becoming the first major event in the Middle East, Africa or South Asia to offer 5G.
A live demo of 5G capabilities held at the Expo 2020 main office on July 10, 2018. Photo credit: Ben Mack
According to Mohammed Alhashmi, senior vice president of innovation and future technology at Expo 2020 Dubai, the plan was always to offer 5G at the innovation, world culture, and visionary futurism extravaganza. “We are here to build the most exciting event in the world,” he said. “An event that will leave a legacy. One of the themes of Expo 2020is the future. And technology is an enabler of that.”
The media roundtable announcing the 5G availability also included a demo of 5G’s capabilities. In addition to the VR experience, 16 channels were broadcast live on a screen simultaneously, in 4K resolution.
Impressive as the demo was, Alhashmi said it was on the low end of 5G’s capabilities. He said that while the demo was conducted at a speed of about 1.36 gigabytes per second, the goal was to have it up to more than five gigabytes per second by the time the Expo opened. There was also a “latency” – or delay – of just one millisecond, as opposed to the 15-20 millisecond delay of 4G.
To help enable 5G coverage at the Expo, Alhashmi pointed to some pretty mind-boggling stats – including more than 200 kilometres of fibre connections, and more than 8,500 WiFi access points, for the Expo site alone. “It will add value. And it will optimise the visitor experience,” he said. “We will have the best event in the world. We will be one of the most connected places in the world.”
But the reasoning for the 5G rollout – which will also include free WiFi for all Expo visitors – goes beyond a single international exposition. “This is the first Expo that leaves a proper legacy behind,” Alhashmi said. “When we say we’re going to leave a legacy, we mean it.
“Every innovation that we’re creating, we’re going to leave behind. We’re going to leave a legacy. And we’re going to leave behind a legacy of people.”
The Expo 2020 announcement follows Etisalat’s previously-announced plans for 5G to be available to the public in the United Arab Emirates by the end of this year, and – as Alhashmi said – for 5G to be “massively available” throughout the country in the second half of 2019.
Saeed Al Zarouni, senior vice president of mobile networks at Etisalat, left, and senior vice president of innovation and future technology at Expo 2020 Dubai Mohammed Alhashmi.
Saeed Al Zarouni, senior vice president of mobile networks at Etisalat, echoed Alhashmi's sentiments. “Today’s announcement is significant, with Etisalat setting a global benchmark that supports UAE’s 2021 Vision, which identifies digital technology as one of the top seven primary national sectors.
“Our ability to provide 5G services to Expo 2020 is only possible due to our commitment to invest in line with our strategy to ‘drive the digital future to empower the society’ with solutions and services that are at the forefront of the digital journey.
“Expo 2020 will be the fastest, and the smartest, area on the earth. We are committed to this.”
The Expo 2020 Dubai site as of July 10, 2018. Photo credit: Ben Mack
With a theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” Expo 2020 will run from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021. About 25 million visitors are expected to attend. About 70 per cent of visitors are expected to come from outside the UAE, the largest proportion of overseas visitors in the 167-year history of World Expos.