UAE’s second telco may delay launch until 2007

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By  Published  November 18, 2006

Telecom provider du, the second operator to enter the UAE markets, may choose to delay its launch until the beginning of next year.

du CEO Osman Sultan revealed last week that the company will begin a major marketing campaign on November 19, and that the response of the market will then define the actual service launch date.

“We will not announce an exact date yet. It will depend on the amount of possible customers and their requisitions,” he said.

The key issue for the company chaired by Ahmad Bin Byat appears to be the granting of mobility of numbers, which requires significant logistical efforts. “According to market research the availability of preferred numbers, or the possibility to take an old number to a new provider, is one of the most important features for customers. In order to enable this we need to coordinate all options - and we need to have an approximate idea of the size of our future client pool. We cannot launch before we fully sort out this number issue,” Sultan explained.

He said that all other aspects of operations - namely products, services, human operators and networks - are ready for the launch. There are some minor technical obstacles since the operator will share sites with rival Etisalat. “There are small difficulties, but the collaboration between the two firms is great,” he said.

du, which will enter a more-than-100% penetrated market, will need to be very innovative in its products and services to achieve its targets.

“We launch in a market that is run by a very established operator, which raises the bar of expectation very high. No second operator that was ever introduced to a telecom market ever faced such a high level of expectation,” he said.

Sultan stated that the company aims for a 30% market share within the first three years of operations. “The demographic nature of the UAE has a certain degree of dynamism and brings great opportunities. But we will very aggressively target existing UAE customers with our very competitive prices, services and products,” he added.

One of their major innovations will be the “pay per second” service - as the name suggests customers will be charged per second and not per minute; a service that will apply for all voice calls. “Customers that just want to say hello or that they arrived well should not be charged for a whole minute. This tariff model is part of our ‘add life to life’ campaign that aims to define communication newly,” he explained.

Some other new services will include payments through mobile phones of monthly bills or upgrades, and will also include purchases of retail products, cinema tickets and taxi fees. du will further introduce the largest international roaming network any mobile operator has ever offered at the time of a launch.

The operator, which is 40% government, 20% Mubadala Development Company, 20% Tecom Investments and 20% public shareholders owned, went public in March. Since then is has been a bumpy ride for du on the stock market. Experts however believe that shares will go up once all services are launched.

“We are increasingly trying to introduce new products and services to the market to master costs better. All these factors should push up share prices. It is part of our mission statement to protect the highest interests of our shareholders,” he commented.

“du is aiming to be innovative in its marketing activities. It deliberately avoided a tel, mob, telcom or sat in its logo and instead sought a simple word that can be pronounced in every language," Sultan explained.

“In our ads you will never see a phone or a computer, because communication goes beyond that. In the future we will probably use different gadgets to communicate. Customers do not care how a system is called. They want to know how technology can facilitate their life."

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