The United Arab Emirates’ Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has announced that the country’s two telecoms operators, Etisalat and Du, have launched fixed line network sharing on a trial basis, with a view to making the service available across the UAE by the end of the year. The soft-launch of bitstream access is being carried out with a select group of users and will give business and residential customers the choice of operator for their fixed line voice and broadband services for the first time. The trial is the final stage of testing designed to assess all aspects of the service, including the customer interface and inter-operator systems, the order and provisioning process, and the technical capabilities, as well as assessing the customer experience. ‘This is a major milestone on the road to competition in fixed line services,’ commented Mohamed Al Ghanim, director general of the TRA, adding: ‘Etisalat and Du have been working on this for some time and many people wondered if it would ever happen … Etisalat and Du compete strongly in mobile services and we can all see the benefits that competition in mobile services has brought to the UAE. We will soon enter a phase of strong competition in fixed services and we expect similar benefits to flow as a result. We hope that this final stage of testing and implementation is successful so that we can see a commercial launch before the end of the year.’
The soft launch focuses on the provision of high speed internet, business VPNs and fixed line voice services. Etisalat and Du plan to extend the bitstream agreement to include IPTV services at a later stage, when a number of commercial and technical requirements are aligned. Customers invited to participate in the soft launch will be asked to provide feedback to assess their overall experience on all aspects of the service, enabling the two operators to resolve any system issues before the commercial launch. Subject to the results and feedback, a nationwide launch of the service is scheduled for December 2011.