Huawei takes first slice of Etisalat's NGN pie

Etisalat CEO Mohammed Omran expects that before the end of next year, a large portion of the network will be based on Next Generation Networks, which will allow for a whole host of converged services.

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By  Alex Ritman Published  September 20, 2005

UAE incumbent Etisalat has confirmed its ambitious plans for the rollout of a next generation network (NGN) in the UAE, awarding the first major contract to Huawei. The Chinese supplier has been handed the task of providing softswitches and media gateway for an initial 160,000 lines. The contract was awarded last year, according to Huawei’s VP MENA Wang Jiading, but trials have been conducted since then ahead of the official announcement. The NGN went live two months ago. “We already have a small network available,” says Etisalat CEO Mohammed Omran. “The technology cannot wait for long before we have to offer it to customers.” He confirms that trials would continue in areas where demand was highest, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The amount Etisalat plans to invest in its NGN has not been publicised, nor has the value of Huawei’s contract, though Omran says given the number of Etisalat subscribers, the project would obviously grow to incorporate the initial 160,000 NGN lines. Omran expects that before the end of next year, a large portion of the network will be based on NGN. “We will see other contracts awarded in the coming months,” Omran says. Huawei’s Jiading is confident that Huawei will continue to enjoy further successes with Etisalat, having beaten a host of international suppliers for the first tender. He mentions that the contenders were a similar line up for British Telecom’s NGN project, known as 21st Century Network, which included the likes of Alcatel, Siemens and Cisco. With the NGN, Etisalat is looking to offer high-speed data and voice services, incorporating e-vision, the operator’s digital cable network company. “E-vision will be used as a source for further content,” says Omran. “We want to expand e-vision using DSL, because it is cheaper than fibre.” Interactive gaming and online shopping are just two of the possibilities Etisalat is hoping to offer and fixed-mobile convergence is also on the cards via the NGN, with customers able to use the fixed-line network to make mobile calls.

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