Etisalat chided for bid to block du ad
TRA steps in as telco suspends SMS code used in rival’s MNP awareness campaign
The UAE’s telecoms regulator has issued a ruling against Etisalat for blocking a campaign run by competitor du to highlight the ability of customers to change mobile operators without having to amend their telephone number.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said that it had instructed Etisalat to remove a block on a short code number last Thursday (22 November), but that the telco had failed to do so, resulting in a violation decision being issued against Etisalat by the regulator.
In October, the TRA said that long-delayed plans for mobile number portability (MNP) would be introduced by December.
To highlight the announcement, du has been running a media campaign that invites consumers to send an SMS to a short code number. Consumers who sent the message would then receive an SMS from du containing information relating to MNP.
“It came to the TRA’s attention that the short code 3553 had been blocked by Etisalat,” the TRA said, in a statement issued on Monday.
“This meant that Etisalat mobile subscribers who sent a message to the short code did not receive a response from du. It is understood that this block has been in effect since around 21 November 2013.”
In a separate statement, du called Etisalat's action "an unfortunate turn of events", adding: "We are pleased to inform UAE residents that the SMS short code has been now restored by Etisalat following the TRA’s intervention."
The TRA initially aimed to introduce mobile phone number portability back in mid-2008, but it and the country’s operators have missed numerous deadlines in the years since.
In July this year, Etisalat and du failed to agree on a deal that would allow them to compete on fixed line services after more than four years of negotiations.
The providers, which are both majority owned by government entities, offer fixed-line, broadband and television packages, but in different territories within the UAE.
According to the TRA, mobile phone penetration in the UAE is one of the highest in the world, at over 200%.