Telecoms bonanza

The inaugural GULFCOMMS event that took place as part of the hugely popular GITEX annual show between November 18-22 marked the full recognition that telecoms, and IT within the telecoms sector have well and truly come into their own.

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By  Administrator Published  November 30, 2006

The inaugural GULFCOMMS event that took place as part of the hugely popular GITEX annual show between November 18-22 marked the full recognition that telecoms, and IT within the telecoms sector have well and truly come into their own.

What was most striking to me at the show was the calm confidence exuded by the more than 130 exhibitors on hand within the Zabeel Hall, of their products and services, and the context of these offerings within the wider Middle East and Africa market.

Much of the buzz generated at GITEX 2005 surrounded the licensing of the second all-service operator in the UAE, and the forecasted launch of the operator dominated much of the proceedings at GULFCOMMS 2006. Disappointingly du did not rise to the occasion and the company's CEO Osman Sultan was unable to fix a date for commercial launch. Market commentators forecast it to be early next year, should issues related to mobile number portability and infrastructure sharing be overcome in time.

Another burning topic at the show this year was the provision of voice over IP (VoIP) services to consumers by third-party providers in the UAE. While the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority had been expected to announce the part-liberalisation of VoIP provision in the UAE, the director general Mohamed Al Ghanim took the opportunity to confirm that Etisalat and du would be the only providers permitted to offer such services on a commercial basis.

The looming launch of du has still had an impact on Etisalat, which is the last remaining incumbent behind Qatar's Qtel in the Gulf to face competition. "The stand has been divided into two distinct areas - one representing business users and the other consumers," commented Essa Al Haddad, Etisalat's chief marketing officer, during the event. "There are not too many products on display. What we are trying to show is that in the last 30 years we have been building our technology, now that technology building is complete and we are focusing on offering services."

Unlike Etisalat's participation at last year's event, the corporation did not focus too heavily on its foreign ambitions, highlighting instead developments of domestic plans such as the GSM coverage set to be offered to commuters on Dubai's metro network when it is launched in the coming years.

The operator is also looking to push dedicated services such its Wayek portal, which offers access to content on the move, as well as showcase enterprise solutions such as Blackberry and its IP VPN connectivity partnerships.

The vendor community also made a strong showing at the show, with suppliers such as Alcatel, Nortel and Nokia highlighting how significant business in the region is to their global operations. Further investment is likely from these suppliers and others like them.

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