UAE telco Etisalat has soft launched its LTE network in the country, and said the full commercial launch will be announced within a few weeks.
The network is the first in the Middle East to be based on LTE-FDD technology, which allows for fully mobile broadband speeds of up to 100Mbps.
Etisalat has already deployed about 600 LTE base stations covering the UAE's major cities.
Nasser bin Obood, acting chief executive of Etisalat, said that the telco has spent AED6 billion ($1.63 billion) on its LTE and fibre optic network, although the company refused to give a specific sum for the investment made in the LTE network alone.
The new LTE network allows for download speeds of more than double that of the telco's previous mobile networks.
Etisalat worked with three network vendors on the deployment: Alcatel-Lucent deployed the network in Abu Dhabi, Ericsson worked on the network in "New" Dubai areas, while Huawei covered "Old" Dubai and the Northern Emirates, a source from one of the vendors told CommsMEA.
Saeed Al Zarouni, senior vice president of mobile networks, Etisalat, said that the current coverage is just the first phase of deployment. "Other areas will be covered in the second phase," he said. "We will have 1,000 sites by the end of the year, and 1,700 sites in 2012."
He added that Etisalat would also continue to deploy the LTE network in buildings in the next phase of expansion. He said that about 60 building will be covered by the end of 2011, and 400 building will be covered by early 2012.
Internet users who want to use the LTE service on their mobile phone or tablet will have to wait for at least six months for compatible devices to enter the market, according to Matthew Wilshire, chief marketing officer, Etisalat.
When the network is first launched, subscribers will have to use dongles to use the service on their laptops.
Etisalat's move follows similar LTE announcements by three Saudi Arabian operators of Mobily, a unit of Etisalat, STC and Zain KSA last week.
However, Wilshire stressed that Etisalat's launch was the first fully mobile LTE network in the Middle East.