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Du CEO: Our network is ready for the new iPhone

Du boss says network upgrades geared towards high end devices, quashes speculation about Voda involvement in the deal.

Du CEO: Our network is ready for the new iPhone
Du expects capital spending in 2009 to exceed AED 2 billion.

Du's mobile network will be capable of supporting Apple's latest iPhone device when it launches at the end of this month, according to the operator's CEO, who said that capital spending had been geared towards readying the network for high performance mobile devices as the telco seeks to attract higher spending customers.

Apple's iPhone 3GS, which will be sold in the UAE by Etisalat and Du, is an HSPA-enabled device that can support download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps, potentially giving users fast access to mobile internet.

When asked if Du's network would be able to support the device, Du CEO Osman Sultan gave an emphatic response: "Absolutely".

"Today, most of the populated areas - I'm not talking the remote areas - have HSPA coverage," Sultan told CommsMEA at last week's Gitex technology event.

Although he conceded that there were "black spots" in Du's network when it first launched in 2007, Sultan said that significant investment had dramatically improved coverage and capacity.

"In the early days we said that do not expect to find us in every corner. We had some black spots, but we have been investing and we have been working so hard for the past two and-a-half years on the infrastructure and on the coverage and the capacity."

Sultan said that improving the network was the main focus of the operator's capital spending plan as it sets about repositioning itself in the market in pursuit of higher spending customers, many of whom use data hungry handsets such as RIM's BlackBerry devices and the iPhone for sending and receiving emails and accessing the internet while on the move.

According to Du's first quarter results, capital spending in 2009 is expected to exceed AED 2 billion ($545 million).

"If you go after high end customers you need the iPhone and you need the high speed devices.  [Improvements to the network] were with those high-end customers in mind," Sultan said.

And he dismissed speculation that the deal with Apple was the result of Du's partner agreement with the UK-based operator Vodafone.

When asked if the deal with Vodafone had any impact on negotiations with Apple, he replied: "Not at all. It was not even mentioned. Any type of agreement between operators is not of their concern."

Sultan said that the deal with Apple was struck after Du had convinced the iPhone manufacturer that the device would form a central part of its handset and mobile broadband strategy.

"You have to convince them that you really believe that the device will make a difference and that you believe that the device will be an instrumental part of driving data usage and bringing new people to applications that maybe they wouldn't have considered before, and that you are willing to have your plans built around this conviction," he said.

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