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Thu 19 Apr 2007 07:10 PM

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Etisalat & du likely to face more competition

UAE telecoms regulator is preparing to open internet and fixed line markets to new players.

The UAE could soon see its telephone market opened up to further competition.

Only two months ago, the country witnessed the launch of mobile phone operator, du, as the first competitor to the previous monopoly service provider, Etisalat. Both are majority owned by the UAE government.

Today (Thursday), the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority director general, Mohamed al-Ghanim, said that a draft law is being worked on that will open the country to further competition - most likely for both fixed line and internet services.

The planned law "will give a chance for other telecom services to operate, other than the mobile services," al-Ghanim said in a statement, adding that the draft law was expected to be sent for government approval in October.

It was not made clear whether private companies not owned by the UAE government would be allowed to apply for new service licences.

The UAE is currently in free trade agreement talks with both the European Union and the USA. Both are likely to insist on open access to markets including telecommunications and banking.

Etisalat, the second-largest Arab telecom firm by market value, recently announced record first-quarter net profit of AED1.84 billion (US $501 million), up 37.3% from the same period the previous year.

Du was launched too recently to have filed accounts, but it announced at the beginning of the year that its pre-launch operating costs during 2006 totalled AED608.9 million ($166m). It hopes to grab more than 10% of the mobile phone market by the end of this year.

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