Free economic zones remain beyond Etisalat's reach

16 Aug 2007

UAE incumbent telco Etisalat is being restricted from providing telecom services in the UAE’s free economic zones, its CEO Mohammad Al Qamzi has said. He complained that Etisalat was unable to access the 2,200 businesses in the Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City because of resistance from Tecom Investments, the owner of these state-sponsored ‘New Dubai’ areas, and second national operator (SNO) du, which provides telephony, TV and internet access there, via each zone’s own IP-based fibre-optic network infrastructure. The original provider in these areas was Sahm Technologies, a telecoms subsidiary of property developers Emaar, one of the companies that built the ‘New Dubai’ free economic zones. Sahm Technologies was absorbed by the government via Tecom Investment, which now holds 20% of du. Tecom and du both deny that they are standing in the way of competition in these areas, and that the matter is up to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) to decide. The TRA has not commented on the matter. An interconnection agreement between du and etisalat in December should have provided both telecom operators with equal access to all markets in the country. In reality though, while residents have a choice of mobile provider, both du and etisalat retain monopolies for fixed line and internet service in certain areas.