Etisalat and du could face more competition

20 Apr 2007

The UAE could soon see its telephone market opened up to further competition, only two months after the launch of mobile services by the country’s first alternative telco du. Director-general of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), Mohamed al-Ghanim, said yesterday that a draft law is being worked on that will open the country to further competition in the fixed line and internet sectors. The planned law ‘will give a chance for other telecom services to operate, other than the mobile services,’ al-Ghanim said in a statement, adding that the draft bill was expected to be sent for government approval in October. Former monopoly Etisalat and its recently launched competitor du are both majority-owned by the government, and it was not made clear whether privately-owned companies would be allowed to apply for new service licenses. Direct foreign investment in telecoms is prohibited until at least 2015, under an exclusion negotiated with the World Trade Organisation when the UAE joined in 1996. However, the country is currently in free trade agreement talks with both the European Union and the USA, both of which are likely to insist on open access to markets, including telecommunications.