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UAE telcos need to catch up

UAE telcos need to catch up

Home internet usage appears to be on the decline as mobile-savvy surfers abandon their desktops for their smart phone. But can the UAE telcos keep up?

December 15, 2010 3:26 by

Just when you’ve thought you’ve had enough of Kipp’s rants on the duopoly that is the UAE telco scene, we can bring you the most recent dilemma facing the two so called “competitors”.

According to the National, the rapid rate at which consumers are adapting to mobile broadband is too quick for the local telecoms companies to keep up – it’s hurting their home internet business, which they’re both throwing cash and resources at by the truck load.

For, while consumers seem eager to quit their bulky computers for the latest iPhones, UAE telcos are still focusing campaigns on pushing home broadband. In fact, this past year has seen Etisalat installing “e-life components” in every one of their customers’ apartments in Dubai as well as aggressively promoting their offer of supposedly faster broadband, landlines and satellite TV.

All that looks a little behind the times, given anecdotal evidence that Kipp’s received from our new next door neighbours. Upon settling into their apartment, they did not rush to get a telephone line installed or buy a bulky router; instead they simply continued to use their cell phones for both internet and calls.

Twenty-five-year-old Emirati Sabran al Qubaisi told the National that he had three mobile phones but no landline or home internet subscription: “I have everything I need on my cellphones. Landlines are now obsolete,” he said. “My iPhone is currently my primary phone. It’s not just my phone but my laptop at the same time.”

The year has definitely seen a drop in internet subscribers, with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) recording a 0.4 percent decline in broadband subscribers since August alone. Given that Dubai’s population is on the up again, and that more and cheaper flats are on the market, the figure should be going the other way.

So, as Du and Etisalat laboriously plug their home internet packages, the world is moving on. Perhaps the telcos would do a better job of keeping pace with the market if they were really competing. But TRA director general Mohamed al Ghanim said last week that “technical hitches” have pushed back the introduction of broadband internet sharing between the pair, as well as mobile number portability, until sometime next year. “We have delayed the launch because we want to make sure that the process is right for the customer and there is full automation that would happen with the two operators,” said al Ghanim. So, little chance of any real competition for a while, it seems.

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