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Sun 7 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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Du up for fine as March launch set

Du may not launch services in the UAE until March this year, months after it had originally planned to, and could face heavy fines by regulators for the further delays the emirates’ second telecoms operator has announced.

Du may not launch services in the UAE until March this year, months after it had originally planned to, and could face heavy fines by regulators for the further delays the emirates’ second telecoms operator has announced.

Company CEO Osman Sultan revealed the extent of the setback at the signing of an interconnection agreement between itself and incumbent operator Etisalat in Abu Dhabi. He said that under the revised timetable du planned to release its service and subscription charges by the end of January, send out SIM cards to customers in February, and finally begin commercial operations in March. “We are expecting this [our commercial launch] to come in the next eight to 12 weeks,” Sultan said.

However, this means the operator will almost certainly miss the launch deadline set by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of February 12 and could lead to it being penalised, with the TRA stating that fines are an option. The regulator declined to comment on the amount of any fine if any were to be imposed. There is also considerable uncertainty surrounding the extent of du’s network coverage when it is finally launched.

The operator will eventually provide both fixed and mobile services across all seven emirates, but has so far refused to be drawn on whether this will be the case when it launches, or whether it will begin services in certain service areas.

Du claimed last week that over 400,000 numbers had been booked with the operator — almost 10% of UAE residents — and said it expects another 100,000 number to be reserved prior to the launch.

The interconnection agreement with incumbent telecoms provider Etisalat confirms interoperability between the two operators’ networks and sets out rules on how they exchange data traffic and what prices they can charge each other.

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