The UAE’s two nationwide telecoms operators, Etisalat and Du, have begun the testing of their shared networks ahead of a national rollout scheduled for later this year, local newspaper The National reports. Last year both companies finalised discussions to gain access to each other’s broadband internet and television infrastructure. The move is designed to break the duo’s monopolies within their respective areas, enabling consumers countrywide to choose their preferred fixed line service provider. At present Du’s internet and pay-TV services only cover small areas of Dubai, including Dubai Marina and Media City; while Etisalat is barred from operating in these areas, it holds a monopoly on providing fixed services in the rest of the country. Khalifa al Shamsi, the senior vice president of marketing at Etisalat, said the operator has started home-testing the service to ensure its network can be accessed in Du’s territory. However, he did not say when the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) would approve the move to make the two networks available throughout the UAE. Meanwhile, Du’s chief commercial officer, Farid Faraidooni, said the company had also started its own internal testing for the technology that would make network convergence possible.
Last month the TRA said that network sharing had been pushed back to 2011, as technical issues concerning the provision of bitstream over direct fibre-optic broadband connections were still being resolved. According to the TRA’s director general, Mohamed al Ghanim, the regulator should approve the launch of services after pilot programmes have been carried out with customers – pilots are scheduled to begin in the first quarter of this year.