Du's waiting game

Reports have been surfacing all week that the UAE’s second telecoms operator du may be forced to delay its launch from the third to the fourth quarter of this year. However, my sources at du suggest it may not be before 2007 that we see du rolling out its services.

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By  Ben Dawson Published  April 9, 2006

|~||~||~|Reports have been surfacing all week that the UAE’s second telecoms operator du may be forced to delay its launch from the third to the fourth quarter of this year. However, my sources at du suggest it may not be before 2007 that we see du rolling out its services. Officially, the delay is a result of the telco failing to reach an agreement with Etisalat on the sharing of services. Ahmed bin Byat, chairman of du, was quoted in Gulf News last week saying: “The situation now can not bear any delay beyond the end of this month, otherwise we will be forced to introduce our services to customers in the last quarter of 2006.” More likely, I am told, is the fact that du is working on connecting to a link provided by Flag Telecom’s Falcon submarine cable system. This link currently runs from Suez to Mumbai in India, and the system will give du customers access to high speed internet and broadband services without having to rely on the existing Etisalat infrastructure. It sounds great – except for the small problem that most of the infrastructure needed to connect to the link does not actually exist, and is some months away from being completed. “Etisalat is not falling over itself to help its competitor, but that’s not surprising. Du’s real problem lies in trying to do this on its own, which it is finding very difficult,” explains my source. Let's hope it doesn't take too long. The launch of du couldn't come soon enough for many customers. OWN GOAL What is going on at Manchester United? Last week casino group Mansion pulled out of a US$50 million sponsorship deal, accusing the club of “double dealing.” This appeared to leave the door open for Etihad to sponsor the team – until last Tuesday when Etihad confirmed it also was not to be the team’s sponsor. And so to candidate no.3, Qatar Airways. Oh really? A Qatar source tells me the airline has “no idea” why it is being linked with the club. Could it be that the club's American owners, the Glazier family, are upsetting potential sponsors? RICH PICKINGS It was a fruitful visit to the Mosaic Terrace at Emirates Towers last week for Will Whitehorn, the president of Virgin Galactic. Whitehorn appeared on stage, alongside his boss Sir Richard Branson, to help promote Virgin Galactic’s commercial space venture. “We have already taken US$13.2 million in deposits,” Whitehorn boasted. By the end of the conference, that figure had rise to US$14.4 million. I am told that six of the “guests” at the conference were so impressed, they immediately arranged to pay the full US$200,000 needed to get on board Virgin Galactic when it finally blasts off into space sometime in 2008. “They only needed to hand over US$20,000 but they wanted to be so-called founder members, which means you have to pay the full whack. And they didn’t seem too bothered about having to do that,” a Virgin source tells me. TOP CATCH Still no update on when Al Jazeera is launching its 24-hour English news channel, with continued rumours that it has been delayed again – and the first broadcast may not be until late May. Al Jazeera denies the claims, and has spent the past week recruiting several more big names to join the station. Latest recruit is none other than Richard Gizbert, who spent 11 years at ABC. A top catch you would think. Gizbert will present a world media review programme, Listening Post, which will look at how the news is handled by the world’s media. If he’s short of a story or two, he could always talk about himself. Gizbert was booted out by ABC after refusing to cover the war in Iraq, citing health and safety reasons. (I should point out that he did win an unfair dismissal claim against ABC last year).||**||

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