Despite the extraordinary nature of the period between this report and the last, the mobile network experience in the UAE appears to be relatively unchanged, with both operators holding onto the same awards that they won in our previous report. In addition, across our three experiential metrics — Video Experience, Games Experience and Voice App Experience — both du and Etisalat maintained the same ratings as from before. However, when we looked at our sub metrics for these measures of the mobile experience, Etisalat secured an Excellent (75 or above) rating for 4G Video Experience — up from Very Good (65-75), while du has moved up one category for 3G Voice App Experience. This overall lack of change represents something of a missed opportunity, given the room for improvement in terms of Games Experience and Voice App Experience.
That said, one area where there has been significant enhancement is Download Speed Experience. Our Etisalat and du users have seen their average overall download speeds increase by 6.2 Mbps (15.2%) and 4.2 Mbps (17.6%), respectively, causing the average overall download speeds seen by our Etisalat users to rise above 45 Mbps. Both Etisalat and du were recently recognised by Opensignal as Global Rising Stars for Download Speed Experience in our Global Mobile Network Experience Awards 2020 report, but du was the only operator in the UAE to also place as a Global Rising Star for Upload Speed Experience.
While both our du and Etisalat users have spent slightly less time connected to 4G when compared to our last report and both operators’ 4G Coverage Experience scores have barely moved. This is not surprising given both the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has been triggering changes in our users’ locations — which may mean that they spent more time indoors and less time in areas such as city centers where operators have invested heavily in infrastructure.
In addition, there’s the shift in focus towards 5G as highlighted back in June when Etisalat said that it will focus on rolling out its 5G non-standalone (NSA) network for the next two years before it launches a 5G standalone (SA) network. However, until both operators are running 5G SA networks and the majority of their users are using SA compatible handsets, 4G will act as the foundation of the mobile network experience in the UAE, given that 5G NSA networks require a user to be connected to a 4G network when they are using 5G services.
While the focus on 4G is receding, there are plans to do away with 2G altogether — in June, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said that the country’s 2G networks will be switched off at the end of 2022 and that the freed-up spectrum will be used to support 5G services.
In this report, we’ve analyzed the mobile network experience provided by the UAE’s two national operators — du and Etisalat — at the national level in the 90 days starting July 1, 2020. We have used 5G measurements in addition to those from previous generations of mobile network technology when determining the overall scores for each metric.