Du says mobile market no longer top priority

UAE telco says shifting focus to attract subscribers to data package services
Du says mobile market no longer top priority
Farid Faraidooni, chief commercial officer of UAE telco du
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Tue 11 Oct 2011 07:55 AM

Du, the UAE’s second-biggest phone company, is shifting its focus from growing mobile market share to increasing subscribers to its data package services, its chief commercial officer said.

The operator, which currently has a 44 percent share of the UAE mobile market, said subscribers to data package services is increasing four-fold, said Farid Faraidooni.

“Whether we are 44 percent, 48 percent or 50 percent, it does not really matter at a lot at this phase. It was important for us in the beginning to acquire market share to built our customer base but now going from 44 to 46 percent [is] not really the name of the game,” he told Arabian Business.

“What is important now is that we focus on creating value [and] evolving our customer base in the high end of the market…. roll out services that are really geared to this customer base [by] focus on data [and] value added services. These are the things we are focusing on strategically rather than just the market share,” he said.

Despite the shift in strategy Faraidooni said he sees no reason why du cannot overtake its competitor, Etisalat, in terms of market share.

“I don’t think there is any reason not to [overtake Etisalat]. If it happens well and good but it will not be any more our primary strategic focus,” he said.

Dubai-based du, which broke Etisalat’s monopoly in 2007, has steadily been gaining market share but mobile subscriber growth is slowing down, making data services increasingly important.

The firm in August said its mobile phone subscriber base had increased by 171,100 in the second quarter to 4.8 million, while fixed-line customers grew 25 percent to 623,600 lines.

The network currently has five million active customers in the UAE, said Faraidooni.

Subscribers to the operator’s data package services are quadrupling, he added.  “We are quadrupling our data usage year-on-year so I would expect that a significant portion of our customer base is using data heavily.”

Etisalat on Sunday reportedly filed a complaint to the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority urging it to take action after du released a statement claiming its commercial service, HSPA+ falls under 4G services.

Etisalat, who last week said it planned to roll out 4G services by the end of the year, has previously claimed to be the first to offer a fourth generation service.

Faraidooni told Arabian Business its HSPA+ service is 4G but said Etisalat was the first to introduce Long Term Evolution (LTE) services. “[People have got confused] between the technology and the capabilities, the features and the performance of 4G network. We were the first to introduce 4G network in the UAE,” he said.

“Etisalat, our competitor, was the first to launch LTE…. that’s a fact, we are not of course doubting that but we were the first to introduce a 4G network or a 4G capable network in the UAE,” he added.

Du in August said its second quarter profits had increased 52 percent while net income grew from AED207.2m ($56.4m) from AED137.4m a year earlier.

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