Dubai: With just months until the commercial launch of du, the UAE's second telecom operator, the two carriers are still discussing with the Telecommunciations Regulatory Authority (TRA) the cost and ease of etisalat customers moving to du.
"A lot of progress has been made," said du CEO Osman Sultan in an interview with Gulf News.
"We share a fairly close point of view, and we've been brought closer through lengthy discussions. It still needs fine tuning, but these things usually take months and months."
Sultan admitted his company will seek to attract etisalat customers but said the company cannot rely on customer acquisitions driven by population growth alone, although he ruled out a price war.
Still unresolved is what fees subscribers will be charged to take their numbers with them when switching and whether they might be able to keep the entire number intact. Currently, subscribers moving to du will have to change the area code from 050 to 055.
In addition, the two operators and the TRA have yet to agree to what extent du will use etisalat's existing broadband network. The two companies have agreed on interconnection charges, but Sultan declined to discuss specifics.
du's chief executive said he hoped du leads the way toward convergence, which blends voice, data and video services onto one mobile handset. At the same time he recognised consumer choice was often driven by pricing and said du would be clever and competitive in that regard.
Victor Font, managing partner at Delta Partners, a telecommunications advisory firm, said a price war over per-minute charges would hurt both companies. Competition over mobile subscription entry costs would affect them less and could prove effective in luring customers, Font said. Low activation or switching costs are critical for du, he said, adding that late entrants in mature markets have benefited from handset promotions.
Earlier this year du officials were on record projecting a launch date in the third quarter of 2006 but more recently have been targeting a fourth quarter rollout for its international, mobile and fixed line services as well as broadband Internet and pay TV packages.
As for expansion plans, Sultan said his board and shareholders directors have given him clear direction to focus solely on the UAE market.
"The global trend is towards regional expansion and we will see some consolidation in this field," Sultan acknowledged. But du has no plans to make acquisitions, Sultan said, and added the company will build its corporate headquarters in Dubai in the coming years.
Switching: Several issues remain unresolved
- Still unresolved is what fees subscribers will be charged to take their numbers with them when switching and whether they might be able to keep the entire number intact.
- The two operators and the TRA have yet to agree to what extent du will use etisalat's existing broadband network. The two companies have agreed on interconnection charges.