The United Arab Emirates’ telecom watchdog Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has opened up the broadband and fixed voice services to residential customers, facilitating competition between the country’s two telecom operators.
The move will allow Etisalat and du to offer fixed voice and broadband services throughout the UAE. Prior to this, both the operators were restricted to certain areas of the country and consumers were not given a choice.
Etisalat and du have been holding negotiations for six years to open up their fixed line networks.
The service is currently only open to residents for phone services and does not extend to television packages. It is also not open to businesses. Officials said that the service might be extended to businesses within nine to 12 months.
“Businesses need a bit more to access bit stream,” said du’s chief executive Osman Sultan.
“Bit stream might work for small and medium businesses but bigger businesses might need more.”
The move makes the UAE the first country in the Middle East to offer residential customers the possibility to subscribe broadband and fixed voice services from the operator of their choice.
“Competition is crucial in driving performance and innovation,” said Etisalat CEO Saleh AlAbdooli.
“A fair and healthy competitive environment always accelerates progress in the telecom sector, benefiting both, operators and users. Therefore we see competition on fixed services for residential customers as an opportunity for growth.”
He downplayed concerns about cut-throat rivalry, stating that the opening of the market will help improve the quality of services offered to customers.
Although the UAE’s telecom sector is a duopoly, the TRA has been working towards making the sector more competitive. In 2013, the authority introduced mobile phone number portability, making it easier for consumers to switch operators but retain their mobile numbers.