By Greg Wilson
According to the Arab Advisors Group, Etisalat's data-comms monopoly could end by as early as the end of 2002 or early 2003.
Market liberalisation could to come to the UAE’s data communications market by as early as the end of 2002 or early 2003. According to a report from the Arab Advisors Group, the idea of ending Etisalat’s state sponsored data-comms monopoly has gained traction among the ruling families in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.“The Arab Advisors Group believes that the liberalisation of the telecom and data-comm sector in the UAE has strong backing amongst circles in the ruling families in Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” states Hala Baqain, an Arab Advisors Group’s analyst in the report. “Nonetheless, a blue print for liberalization does not yet exist, which could mean a haphazard approach in liberalisation that would yield less than optimal results. Our projections assume some level of liberalisation in the country’s data-comm and Internet segments in the late 2002 / early 2003 time frame,” she adds. The data-comms market offers rich pickings for potential investors. According to Arab Advisors' research, the Internet and data-comms segment contributed approximately 10% of Etisalat’s revenues for year end 2001, amounting to somewhere in the region of US$73 million. Arab Advisors Group predicts that the Internet market could reach US$137 million by 2006.“The UAE enjoys the highest Internet penetration in the Arab world. Of course, with close to 80% of the country’s population made up of expatriates, most of these users are not Arabs. With an envied position as the region’s technology and IT trading hub, the UAE has all the pillars for Internet growth in the country,” comments Baqain.