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HomeGeopolitical CompassArabian Peninsula5G Adoption and its Implications in the Gulf States

5G Adoption and its Implications in the Gulf States

Author: Ryan Grace

Affiliation: Middle East Institute Cyber Program

Organization/Publisher: Middle East Institute

Date/Place: August 11, 2020/ Washington D.C., USA

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 1500


Keywords: 5G, Surveillance, Gulf States, Cyber Security


The oil rich Gulf States are diversifying their economic and financial dependence from the extraction of hydrocarbons to various modes of wealth generation like real state, airlines, media, and information technology. 5G technology, which means fifth generation of cellular networks that is a hundred times faster than contemporary internet speed, was introduced in late 2018. The struggle to achieve 5G technology has initiated a new tech competition not only between global cellular and telecommunication companies but also between giant economies like the US and China. Similarly, national regulatory bodies in Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain have auctioned off the 5G radio frequencies spectrum to local and international telecommunication companies. Moreover, these Gulf States are expecting an increase of almost 4.9% in GDP after the integration of 5G technology in the oil and gas sector. The article discusses several factors that may restrict the benefits of 5G technology to independent consumers. The economic cost is too high to deploy 5G technology while having a small number of supportive cellular devices. Furthermore, it will also increase the risk of cyber attack due to the centrality of telecommunication networks in Gulf States. Being consumers (not innovators) of digital technology, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE have to spend a lot of capital to take necessary cyber security measures. Finally, the deployment of 5G technology will also enhance state spying capabilities on journalists and opposition voices. As Human Rights Watch has already reported about the abuses in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, 5G technology will further enable states to repress its own dissidents.


By: Muhammad Taimoor Bin Tanveer, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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