UAE | General

Skype proves to be cheapest VoIP service in UAE

Massive cuts in rates by du’s Hello and etislat’s Five fuel competition in the UAE

  • By Jay B. Hilotin, Chief Reporter, XPRESS
  • Published: 21:00 May 8, 2013
  • XPRESS

  • Image Credit: GN Archive
  • Despite the surge in VoIP services, telecom industry players hope they can maintain the volume of calls from mobile phone users

DUBAI: Recent call rate cuts may have raised the bar on the competition between etisalat and du, but Skype remains still way cheaper – up to 7.5 times less, an XPRESS survey shows.

Etisalat recently cut call rates to 30 fils a minute to six countries – Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – but charges a set-up fee of Dh1 per call. Hello, du’s VoIP arm, cut rates by half to 20 fils per minute to a number of countries, including those in the sub-continent.

“These cuts are substantial,” said a telecommunications industry official who asked not be named.

Competition from VoIP carriers like Skype, whose website was unblocked by etisalat last month, still looms. XPRESS scoured the fine print of existing offers to compare rates, but the small differentiation can sometimes get confusing.

While it may take time before the likes of Skype are put on the defensive, the recent cuts show the local carriers are fighting back.

“It’s a boon for expatriates but we think we’ll be able to keep the volume of calls from mobile phone users,” said the official.

The fast-changing equation is taking place as governments embrace heightened competition and the inevitable shift of voice traffic from phone lines to the web, spurred by massive growth in globe-spanning fibre optic cables.

For example, while Skype’s “unlimited” call plan to India (2,500 minutes for about Dh89 per month) costs 3.5 fils per minute (eight times cheaper than etisalat’s), Skype’s pay-as-you-go service rate goes up to 33.1 fils (€.069) per minute, more than etisalat’s new discounted rate.

Meanwhile, both du and etisalat have come up with their own unbranded VoIP services. Hello, an affiliate of du and aimed at Asian labourers, recently cut by half call charges to India and Bangladesh to 20 fils. Five, etisalat’s VoIP arm, is expected to follow suit.

Meanwhile, du’s “international minutes bundle” now offers Dh5 for 10 minutes, effectively bringing down its rates to 50 fils a minute to four countries – Bangladesh, China, India and Pakistan. Illegal call providers offer various PC-to-phone services, though many customers report poor call quality.

On the whole, Skype remains competitive for expat from certain countries (see table). By law, only etisalat and du can provide VoIP services in the UAE. Neither of the two officially announced their VoIP services but they have been actively promoting the call cards among expatriate workers.

No comment was immediately available from either etisalat or du.

Comments (6)

Your comments
  1. Added 11:34 May 9, 2013

    Skype and similar voip's are used in almost all the countries in the world yet the telecom operators in those countries are also make good profits. Day by day the technology is developing. Skype can be see everywhere (computers, phones, tablets, tv's etc) so that you cannot block such technology coming in to UAE. Any block in such technology leads to people reaching out to illegal practices of bypassing them, which becomes another issue. Therefore I would request the telecom operators in this countries to use their brains to come up with constructive ideas to win the market share with healthy competition without blocking and burdening the people.

    RK, Abu Dhabi, United States

  2. Added 11:05 May 9, 2013

    Most places in the world people use SKYPE and VOIP for free. Why not here.

    Hamid, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 09:41 May 9, 2013

    PC-PC Calls are not illegal ARE THEY? I use, SKYPE; GTalk for PC-PC Calls

    SYED J.HUQ, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 09:29 May 9, 2013

    I would like to give suggetion regarding Hello voip calling card. If you wish to call by Hello card, first thing we have to call one toll free number. But getting line with this Toll free number is nightmare. We have to try 10 to 15 times then only we will get the connection. If you wants to call like an emergency it is not possible in Hello card. Otherwise clearity everythings are fine in Hello card. So i am reqesting to concern authority to develop the toll free facility to use more and more consumer can use the Hello card.

    M.ABDUL RASACK, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 09:04 May 9, 2013

    Etisalat and Du should recommend to ban Skype in UAE.

    Benoy, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 00:14 May 9, 2013

    no...i think skype service here in UAE much expensive. i had experience with skype during each calls to india has charging 1 dollar/10min.

    Asim, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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