UAE to get at least one more telco

Huge Dubai World Central development will provide room for one or more operators, TRA says.

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By  Talal Malik Published  October 2, 2007

The infrastructure of the $30 billion Dubai World Central (DWC) development project is to be built to accommodate one or more telecom operators to operate there, a top official in the UAE'S Telecommunications Regulator Authority (TRA) has said.

The 140 sq km urban aviation community project being built in the Jebel Ali district will have both the infrastructure to allow both the two current telecoms operators to provide services, as well as any other telecom firm which may come in the future, TRA's director general General Mohammad Al Ghanem told Khaleej Times today.

"The target is for both (operators) plus others - it does not mean that a new operator is coming to the market any time soon, but we do not want a conflict," said Ghanem, referring to the UAE telecom operators du and Etisalaat.

"We know that in a few years' time a new operator will come (to the market) and he will be stuck. Let us have an infrastructure, which will allow multiple players to operate in the market," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Ghanem also cited the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) as a good example of where an investment in infrastructure allows for both operators to work.

Etisalat currently does not have accessibility to Internet or fixed-line customers in the New Dubai district, which encompasses Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and nearby residential areas, while du is mainly restricted in the same area.

Etisalat, the UAE's first telecom operator as yet has not been able to access around 2,200 business in the internet and media free zones because of opposition from Tecom, the owners of these freezones, and du, which operates a monopoly in the area for fixed line, TV and internet.

Du and Etisalat signed an inter-connection agreement last December which should have allowed both companies to have equal access to all markets in the country. Residents have a choice of mobile providers, but du and Etisalat still retain monopolies for TV and internet service in certain areas.

However, the UAE government has not looked at the feasibility of a third telecoms operator coming into the market in the near future, a UAE minister said today.

"So far we have not really looked at it, mainly because we feel the existing number of telecom companies is enough at present," Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, the Minister of Government Sector Development told Gulf News.

"In the future, this is something that we will leave to the needs and requirements of the market,"
Al Mansouri also said that he expected tariffs to become competitive because Etisalat's monopoly because Etisalat's monopoly on running phone and internet services ended with du's entry.

"You will see it eventually - as the other company (du) gains strength, definitely we will see more competition between the two sides. And the expectation is that the rates will be different than what we see now," he said.

Both du and Etisalat have offered new service offers, but refrained from competing on price.

The mobile phone penetration in the UAE is set at between 130% to 160%, while the rate of fixed lines is more than 30% of the population.

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