Du to sell the iPhone?

Is the UAE’s second operator, Du, about to get its hands on Apple’s iPhone 3Gs?

Tags: Apple IncorporatedEmirates Integrated Telecommunications Company Emirates Telecommunications CorporationIPhoneUnited Arab Emirates
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By  George Bevir Published  October 15, 2009

Rumours must be handled with care, so please excuse the fact that this article is couched in caveats, but one rumour that's doing the rounds among the UAE tech community demands a little inspection.

It seems that UAE's second operator, Du, could be about to launch the latest version of Apple's iPhone in the UAE, with some sources suggesting that the 3GS version of the popular mobile will go on sale at the Gitex technology event, which kicks off on Sunday.

Du is known to be in talks with Apple, but as you would expect, Du staff are keeping pretty tight-lipped. But when asked if the operator is planning to launch the device at Gitex, none of them denied it.

One response from the PR team was: "Any official announcement will be through the proper channels. I can't say anything more at this point in time." A senior source in Du's products division, who did not want to want to be named, added that Du is "well down the track" to stocking the Apple devices.

When the iPhone first launched back in 2007, Apple entered into exclusive tie-ups with operators around the world, and it penned such a deal with Etisalat. However, over the last couple of months Apple has moved away from the one-partner-per-market format as it looks to broaden the distribution of the device.

Etisalat has said that it will sell the 3Gs at the end of the month, and seemingly in preparation it recently lowered the price of the iPhone 3G, as it sets about shifting stock of the lower spec device. But it could be that its rival will get a two week head start when it comes to selling the latest version.

The 3GS, which was unveiled in the US in June, comes with increased RAM, larger storage capacity (at the top-end of the range) and video recording, among other tweaks and improvements.

Because iPhones are geared towards easy access of the internet, through the large touchscreen and ease with which applications can be added, many networks that support the handsets have reported higher average revenue per user (ARPU) for iPhone users, bucking the global trend of falling ARPUs.

While extra usage can mean more revenue, lots of people uploading photos to Facebook or downloading music while on the move puts a strain on an operator's network. Du's network has come in for a fair amount of stick in the past, and if it is about to start selling and supporting the iPhone its network will be given a very thorough going over. Du's 2G coverage stood at 94% of the population as of the end of last year, but it is still working on boosting 3G coverage, which will be essential is users of the 7.2Mbps HSPA-enabled 3GS are to harness the full power of the device.

Perhaps in preparation for a deluge of data users, yesterday Du said it plans to improve coverage of high rise buildings across the UAE.

Despite the potential pitfalls of partnering with Apple, set out clearly in a recent report by Strand Consult, securing a deal to sell the iPhone would undoubtedly boost Du's high-end credentials, and, if it has sealed the deal, it would build on the Elite tariffs launched earlier this year that signaled the operator's intent to capture a larger slice of the UAE's higher spending customers.

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