Small countries just can’t help Droning on about 5G

Guy Daniels
By Guy Daniels

Oct 2, 2018

© Ooredoo

© Ooredoo

  • The Principality of Monaco turns on 5G with a drone flight
  • Oman turns on its 5G with a drone taxi (yes, really)
  • Oh, and a few streets in the US also have a ‘lite’ version of 5G now… 
  • And all this without any 5G-enabled smartphones

At an event held in Oman last week, national telco Ooredoo demonstrated its 5G capabilities and vision of a smart city with a rather novel approach – one that wouldn’t look out of place in neighbouring Dubai. The telco flew an autonomous 5G-connected aerial taxi along the waterfront. Yes, a drone… with seats for passengers. Totally crazy. Apparently this “world’s first” self-driving and 5G connected flying taxi is big enough to transport two people to a destination up to 20 minutes away with a top speed of 130km/h – if you are brave enough to get in it in the first place, of course. Looking at the photos released of the demo, let’s just say I wouldn’t rush to be first in the queue…

“The Ooredoo 5G roll-out is growing daily,” said Waleed Al Sayed, CEO of Ooredoo, “but as our customers cannot yet access the speeds and benefits of our ongoing investment, we wanted to demonstrate the true power of 5G and showcase what our technology will do for Qatar in the near future and in the years to come.”

And there’s the rub – no consumer devices yet. However, Ooredoo says it is testing a consignment of 5G home broadband devices (given that fixed broadband use cases are going to be the easiest and fastest initial deployment scenario). The 25 devices are being tested internally before being made available to customers.

Actually, Oman has been pushing hard for 5G bragging rights, and probably deserves to win (are you hearing this, Hans and Ronan?). Ooredoo announced in May this year that was the first operator in the world to launch a live 5G network on the 3.5GHz spectrum band, using 5G NR standards-compliant technology. This follows the completion of 10 5G-ready base stations in May 2017 and a 5G business services trial in partnership with Qatar Airways in November 2017. It is now preparing 1,200 base stations to be 5G-ready, and in August announced that 75 sites were completed.

Also looking for 5G bragging rights is the petite Principality of Monaco, home of the world’s greatest F1 Grand Prix and favourable economic haven of the uber-rich. Last week, whilst Ooredoo was flying its taxi drone, Monaco Telecom staged a flight of a 5G-connected UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone to you and me) over the the Monaco Yacht Show, broadcasting live 360-degree HD video footage to a virtual reality headset.

Monaco telecom worked with vendor partner Huawei to stage the event, as a precursor to full nationwide 5G rollout. The telco says the 5G network will be completed in the coming months over 100 per cent of the territory, ready for smartphones when they finally get into the hands of its monied residents sometime in 2019. For now though, 5G base stations are up and running in the pilot area of Port Hercule.

“The 5G network will be a key driver for digital economy and for the development of the smart city,” said Martin Péronnet, CEO of Monaco Telecom. “This partnership will facilitate and accelerate the process of offering Monaco, the best quality of life in the world via digital technology”.

As for that other small country, the USA, you can read TelecomTV’s take on the Verizon news here.

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