Second operator du, but not saying when

UAE’s second telco cutting it close on launch date

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By  Published  December 3, 2006

With less than a month to go, the launch of new UAE telecom operator du on time to meet its end of year deadline is looking increasingly difficult.

The new telecom services provider, the first challenger to incumbent operator Etisalat, had originally said it planned to begin its operations by launching mobile services from the second half of this year.

In an interview with IT Weekly during Gitex last month, du CEO Osman Sultan admitted that technical obstacles had delayed its network coverage, but said that other parts of its service were ready for launch.

“From a product and services and operation point of view we are ready. We are starting the first step of our launch with the number booking campaign,” Sultan told IT Weekly.

However, he added that “there are some obstacles from a technical point of view in rolling out our network that makes the timeframe a little more than expected in order to have nationwide coverage. On the network if we are asked today ‘are you completely ready?’ My answer is no. We do not have the coverage that we want,” he admitted.

Sultan said the company would have better visibility on a launch date in four or five weeks time.

The telco has experienced various challenges in setting up its operations.

Its negotiations with Etisalat on mutual operations have been protracted with an anticipated agreement in September delayed, leaving some points between the operators still to be finalised.

The companies are negotiating on two main points: interconnection and infrastructure sharing. Sultan said that the companies are in agreement on the interconnection accord, while there remain some technical difficulties on the infrastructure.

“There are two types of agreement we have to reach with Etisalat,” he said. “One is called the interconnection agreement. This is linking the two networks together allowing customers from one network to speak to others. On that part we are in agreement on all aspects, we are finalising the wording and it has to be submitted to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) office; so that I consider done,” Sultan claimed.

“On the second part of sharing the infrastructure you have two aspects, sharing the sites for mobile antennae, pylons, towers and equipment. Here we have an agreement to do it, but there are technical difficulties that are making the result not how we expected. Also there is sharing the existing infrastructure in the country, and that we are waiting for a framework to be set by the TRA,” he continued.

Number allocation had also been an issue, Sultan said. “We had hoped we could have mobile number portability at launch. In the middle of the road we discovered we would not have mobile portability, so we were obliged to have this number booking campaign,” he told IT Weekly.

The company recently launched a nationwide ‘Book your Number’ campaign, which lasts until December 14.

The campaign allows customers to select and book mobile numbers, all of which have the 055 prefix, in advance or retain existing numbers while switching providers.

In a press conference at Gitex, Sultan said customers’ number allocation would not be confirmed until December 28. Sultan said that in addition to allocating numbers to customers, the operator still needed to finalise coverage in certain areas where there are technical difficulties before it would be ready for launch.

Following the launch of its mobile services, du is expected to gradually launch fixed-line, internet and television services. It already provides some services in various free zones in Dubai.

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