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UAE's second operator pushes for February launch

Du customers will be able to order their SIM cards from February 11, according to du CEO Osman Sultan

Du customers will be able to order their SIM cards from February 11, according to du CEO Osman Sultan.

Sultan has also stated that du branded stores will open for business on February 25 while the operator's distribution partners will offer its packages on the same date, bringing the total distribution outlets for du to 100. SIM cards will be operational as soon as customers receive them.

The UAE entrant has made inroads in the realm of roaming, signing an interconnection agreement with Omani telco Omantel, which includes voice interconnection, international data services and access to FALCON submarine cable systems located in Oman. Du also announced that it would launch mobile operations with 85% coverage on its own network, addressing the remaining portion of the UAE by piggybacking off incumbent Etisalat's network.

According to a report released last month by investment bank EFG Hermes, du is forecast to break even at EBITDA level by 2009, with projected earnings of AED575 million (US$153 million) by 2010. It is also expected to have a mobile and fixed line market share of 33% and 15% respectively by that time.

EFG Hermes further stated that du's government-backed entry into the UAE's monopolised telecoms market represents the UAE's commitment to World Trade Organisation deregulation requirements, while simultaneously protecting the current incumbent from potentially aggressive tactics of an international entrant.

"Competition by du is viewed largely as being local and not brought by an international player, such as Vodafone, whose scale, marketing capabilities and brand recognition especially in an expatriate environment like the UAE, could have constituted a greater threat for Etisalat," read the report.

An estimated 750,000 numbers are reported to have been pre-booked, and will form du initial targets.

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