Poll: Telco customers are ready to quit

Two in three UAE phone and internet users are likely to dump their supplier when competition is introduced later this year, according to research by Arabian Business and polling company, YouGov.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  February 5, 2006

Two in three UAE phone and internet users are likely to dump their supplier when competition is introduced later this year, according to research by Arabian Business and polling company, YouGov. The survey, responded to by almost 750 UAE residents last month, showed widespread enthusiasm for the liberalisation of the UAE’s telecoms sector and the licensing of new entrant, Emirates Integrated Telecommunication Company (EITC). Sixty six percent of respondents said they were likely to shift supplier when EITC starts offering services later this year. Only 6% said they weren’t likely to move, suggesting that the market’s two existing service providers will face a very large customer churn rate. Almost all of those surveyed also wanted voice over IP (VoIP) services to be made legal — a move which would allow customers to make cheaper calls over the web. The UAE telecoms market currently includes two monopoly service providers — Etisalat, which has a nationwide licence, and Tecom, which operates in new residential developments and business parks in Dubai. Ninety four percent of those surveyed were Etisalat customers, while the remainder subscribed to Tecom. Over 60% of all respondents were satisfied with their supplier’s overall customer service, but nearly half (47%) were either fairly or very dissatisfied with the amounts they were being charged. This could be one incentive for customer churn, although it has yet to become clear whether EITC’s launch will have any major impact on pricing. Only one in three (32%) were satisfied with the amount they were being charged for their services. Over half (53%) of respondents thought that their telecoms and internet service had remained the same in quality over the last 12 months, while 12% felt it had worsened. Around nine in ten respondents felt free market competition should be introduced, while 4% didn’t. Although the figure might have been slightly inflated due to the survey being conducted online, almost all the respondents (95%) felt that VoIP should be legalised — an issue highlighted by recent bans on internet phone service providers such as Skype, which are seen as a threat to established telecoms suppliers’ revenues from long distance calls. The country’s Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA) says it is currently reviewing whether to legalise such services. EITC, which like Etisalat and Tecom will be majority government-owned, has said it will launch mobile, landline, internet and television services in the second half of this year. It will have a nationwide licence, meaning it will be able to compete with Etisalat, but the TRA has yet to clarify whether it will be allowed to offer services within areas served by Tecom. Neither of the two existing service providers would comment on the research.

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