Etisalat hits back at TRA’s claims of anti-competitive behaviour
Operator claims that network upgrades are costly and an “unfair burden”
Etisalat has hit back at the UAE telecom regulator’s claims that it is deliberately obstructing measures to increase competiton for fixed-line services by claiming that the high cost of upgrading the network infrastructure is an “unfair burden” to place on the operator.
Earlier this week the telecom regulatory authority (TRA) issued a statement that said delays to upgrades of Etisalat’s switches were “a deliberate delay in the introduction of competition in fixed-line service”.
The upgrades would allow customers to choose which operator – Du or Etisalat – they want to use to make a fixed-line call.
TRA director general, Mohamed Al Ghanim, said: “Etisalat had updated and enabled 70% of its switches which covers only 66% of the UAE residents. That means 34% of the UAE residents in main cities are left out”.
In response, Etisalat claimed that the remaining 30% can use the service using “special dialling codes or devices”.
“The remaining 30% is due to some legacy equipment installed in parts of the Etisalat network which cannot support the carrier pre-select service and as a result these components need to be replaced,” Etisalat said in a statement.
“This replacement requires a large and unjustified budget especially with the availability of other alternatives such as the special free dialling code and device.”
The TRA claims that Etisalat decided to stop the project in December 2008 before enabling the service in January 2009 despite the availability of a technical solution recommended by the TRA. It says the service will not be available until 2010, which will be a delay of almost two years.
“The upgrades requested by the TRA represent unjustified additional cost for the company at a time where all organisations are working carefully to restrict its operational spending to avoid the indirect effects of the global economic crisis on revenues,” Etisalat said.
The UAE incumbent’s last set of results show that the number of customers using its fixed-line services is in decline, falling by 11,000 from 1.36 million during the last quarter of 2008 to 1.349 million during the first quarter of this year.
Operators in many markets around the world are struggling to arrest a decline in fixed-line users as people appear to be shunning fixed line in favour of mobile devices.