Etisalat maps out future mobile plans

Etisalat is giving visitors to Gitex a glimpse of the future of mobile data services. The UAE telco is demonstrating 3G applications across a fully operational UMTS network. Demos on the stand today include video mail, live TV broadcasting from the laptop, interactive games and a live camera mounted on the stand that beams footage of passers by back to a monitor.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  October 13, 2002

Etisalat is giving visitors to Gitex a glimpse of the future of mobile data services. The UAE telco is demonstrating 3G applications across a fully operational UMTS network. Demos on the stand today include video mail, live TV broadcasting from the laptop, interactive games and a live camera mounted on the stand that beams footage of passers by back to a monitor.

However, show visitors wishing to experience 3G in the real world will have to wait until 2004 before services are introduced in selected areas.

“We’re planning a phased rollout beginning in the first quarter 2004,” says Saleh Al Abdooli, manager, engineering, mobile systems, Etisalat.

“This will be a phased launch, beginning with the cities, then coverage will be gradually extended to the rest of the country,” he adds.

Although Etisalat plans a prolonged field testing period for 3G, it is confident the services will be favourably received in the UAE. Since the launch of WAP, followed by GPRS in January 2002, the PTT has seen a steadily increasing volume of mobile data traffic.

“The level of usage we have on our GPRS services is in line with European levels. We are averaging a high volume of k/bits per customer,” Al Abdooli says.

Despite the initial success of GPRS, Etisalat has realistic expectations for the growth of 3G in the UAE. Some of the reasons behind the pause in deployment are to allow 3G enabled phones to filter into the market and for more widespread and diverse content to develop.

Regardless of the prolonged rollout, Al Abdooli is confident that 3G will boost the GSM market in the UAE beyond the 70% penetration mark. Over the last year, mobile phone penetration has risen from 62 to 65%.

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