Competition looms in UAE telecoms sector

The liberalisation process in UAE is expected to move ahead swiftly in the coming months, with the possible licensing of a second operator before the end of the year.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  March 10, 2005

The UAE could see the emergence of competition in the telecoms sector as early as the end of this year, according to Ahmed Bin Byat, director general of Dubai Technology & Media Free Zone. Speaking at an event in Dubai, Bin Byat said he expects to see the liberalisation process move ahead swiftly in the coming months, with the possible licensing of a second operator before the end of the year. However, Bin Byat did not stipulate what type of license (fixed, mobile or hybrid) would be offered, nor did he disclose any details regarding the nature or conditions of the award process. “The TRA (telecoms regulatory authority) is working on draft licensing terms and I would expect to see some progress in licensing as early as the year end,” Bin Byat says. Given the establishment of a strong incumbent operator and the effects of globalisation, Bin Byat believes this is an opportune time for the liberalisation process to be taking place in the sheikdom. “The UAE (telecoms) market by nature is very competitive despite having only one operator. It relates to customers and suppliers in a competitive manner and Etisalat is supportive of the liberalisation process,” Bin Byat says. He identified the three main drivers of the liberalisation process as being the government’s vision to create a hub for technological services in the UAE, as well as the exertion of commercial and external pressures for the sheikdom to fall in line with the international regulatory environment. “There’s an international move in a direction towards reform and even small countries have to abide with these changes,” Bin Byat commented. Earlier this month incumbent operator Etisalat announced the establishment of an international business unit that would house its current and future telecoms investments, including equity positions in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zanzibar. Bin Byat believes that part of Etisalat’s supportive stance on the liberalisation process stems in part from the operator’s move to strongly position itself as a regional player, and diversify its reliance on the domestic market. “Perhaps looking forward five or 10 years, the UAE market will only be one of many that Etisalat operates in,” Bin Byat said

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