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The UAE generally leads the Middle East Arab countries in ICT rankings, with a well-developed and technologically advanced telecom sector and high levels of mobile, telephone, and broadband penetration. Fixed-line competition, however, has been slow to develop, despite market liberalisation.
The UAE has two fixed network and mobile operators: incumbent Etisalat and newer operator du, which launched services in February 2007. With the prospect of competition, Etisalat reduced its charges to some extent, but failure to implement network sharing has restricted both operators geographically – du has a monopoly in Dubai’s free trade zones, while Etisalat has a monopoly elsewhere. As a result, fixed broadband prices remain high, and Etisalat continues to dominate the fixed-line sector.
Although network-sharing negotiations between Etisalat and du have been ongoing for years, a successful resolution has been repeatedly thwarted by disagreements over bitstream access – even so, both companies claim a bitstream access service will be launched in the short term.
Etisalat is one of the most profitable telecom organisations in the region; it is the second largest contributor to the UAE’s economic development (after petroleum), the 6th largest company in the Middle East, and the 140th largest company in the world. Besides being the incumbent telco in the UAE, Etisalat operates in several other African and Asian countries.
This report provides a concise overview, backed by statistics, of the telecoms market, the regulatory background, and the fixed-line sector.