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Etisalat plans to lock next shipment of iPhones

EXCLUSIVE: Telecoms giant awaiting TRA premission to lock handsets to its network.

Etisalat is seeking approval from the UAE telecommunications regulator to lock the next shipment of iPhones to its own network, according to a source familiar with the plan.

If the locking application is given the green-light sanctioned by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), it would make it more difficult for subscribers to switch networks away from Etisalat, which is currently the only company in the country licensed to sell iPhones.

“What they have said is that the next shipment will be locked to Etisalat,” said the source. “But it will all be subject to the discussions with the TRA.”

An Etisalat spokesperson confirmed that the iPhone is currently sold unlocked, but declined to comment on future policy

The TRA has previously indicated that it will stop any pricing structures that could hamper competition.

Rival du is currently in talks with Apple to become the second carrier to sell the iPhone in the UAE.

“It is possible that there will be another operator offering the iPhone as Apple has generally moved away from the model of offering the phone through just one operator per country,” said Matthew Reed, a telecom analyst at Informa in Dubai.

Separately, Etisalat chief executive Mohammed Al Qamzi told a press conference last  Wednesday that his company wanted to lower the price of some of its iPhone packages, if given permission by the TRA.

The company had repeatedly contacted the regulator for permission to lower the price of the iPhone and other promotions, but had yet to hear back from the regulator, he added.

The TRA was not immediately available for comment.

Etisalat is one of the most expensive iPhone operators in the world.

The company launched the iconic Apple handset in the UAE in February this year.