United Arab Emirates’ second national operator (SNO) Du is facing difficulties which are delaying the launch of its cellular services, its chief executive Osman Sultan has said. The problems are of a technical rather than a commercial nature, and are to do with sharing the incumbent, Etisalat’s, infrastructure — pylons, mobile antennae and equipment — and Du is waiting for the Telecommunications Regulations Authority (TRA) to propose a framework for network access. Interconnection agreements between Du and Etisalat are being finalised by the TRA, and Sultan hopes that Du will be able to launch in early 2007, but added it was beyond his control. He had also hoped that mobile number portability (MNP) would be ready in time for Du’s mobile launch, as according to research, a major concern for customers looking to switch away from Etisalat would be the ability to take their number with them. However the TRA has notified both operators that MNP will not be possible until the end of 2007. Osman reiterated that Du would have its own mobile infrastructure, nationwide coverage, and 30% of the UAE’s cellular market within three years of launch.
Meanwhile Etisalat’s chairman Mohammed Hassan Omran has said that as a result of takeovers and mergers in the region’s telecoms industry would see only four or five operators surviving over the next five to ten years. The consolidation would be spurred on by rapid technological change and economies of scale, Omran told the Arab Strategy Forum. Etisalat has spent over USD10 billion in the last three years buying up licences and companies throughout the Arab world, in a bid to survive and become one of the top regional operators.