Services that offer international internet voice calls previously banned by UAE
UAE telecoms operator Etisalat will offer internet-based phone calls by the end of the second quarter, a top executive told Reuters, as the former monopoly tries to fight off competition from Skype and other international providers.
In the UAE, only Etisalat and rival du are licenced for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services - free Internet-to-Internet calls and cheap Internet-to-phone calls - and both have yet to do so as they try to maximise earnings from conventional calls.
Global market leader Skype is among the foreign VoIP providers officially banned as the government tries to thwart outside competition for the two domestic operators, both of which are majority-owned by state-controlled institutions.
In reality, that ban has done little to stop VoIP's soaring use among the UAE's population, four-fifths of whom are foreign, with wealthier residents using the service on smart phones or lap-tops, while blue-collar workers flock to internet shops to call home for a fraction of the cost of conventional tariffs.
In October, Etisalat unveiled plans to offer VoIP as part of its ePlus mobile platform that will likely include social networking, internet browsing and instant messaging, but six months later its customers are still waiting.
Essa Haddad, Etisalat's chief commercial officer, said "we are talking about quarter two, 2012", when Reuters asked when the company would launch international VoIP services.
Haddad declined to indicate how much cheaper Etisalat's VoIP calls would be compared with its usual international tariffs.
"Any price change has to be [approved] by the regulator and that's why it's taking time because we need to get this finalised," he told Reuters.
Previously, the telecoms regulator has indicated it would not allow significantly cheaper VoIP tariffs, but analysts warn that will do little to persuade UAE residents to switch from the likes of Skype, which can still often be accessed locally despite the ban.
Faced with this challenge, Etisalat has bet its ePlus platform will improve customer loyalty and stem the flow of subscribers to du, which has built up an estimated 46 percent share of mobile subscribers since launching services in 2007.
Etisalat, which operates in 17 markets, has reported declining earnings in seven of the past eight quarters, with the rise of du and VoIP key factors in this slump.
The firm derived 74 percent of its revenue and 97 percent of net profit from the UAE in 2011, according to a presentation to analysts.
I am totally sure they will price it ridiculously high comparing to real VoIP providers (Not Proprietary ones like Skype).
Now the call to US rate per minute is $0.01 and for most EU countries it's $0.025, Shockingly Google voice offers free calls to US and Canada for FREE till end of 2012.
Do you think etisalat can compete with that? Yes they can but they won't. They will price it like 20 to 30 times higher than that
History has shown us that there are three types of organisation:
1. Those that make things happen.
2. Those that watch things happen.
3. Those that wonder..."What Happened?"
I think that the UAE has been short sighted, inflexible and too conformist in its strategy to grow its telecoms sector. Why did a UAE sovereign wealth fund not purchase Skype when it was possible to do so? Why was Du not set up as a global VoIP provider in competition to Skype? Why do the TRA, Etisalat and Du not realise that IP communication is a global business, it has no borders or boundaries, serving a global customer base at globally competitive tarifs?
Despite the futile attempts by the TRA to block the usage of providers such as Skype I do not know anyone in the UAE who knows about Skype that is not using it. In particular SMEs who form + 80% of all businesses in the country need to use such a service to be competitive...so where is the support?
VoIP is the future. Old fashioned international calls die slowly but steadily with the availability of Internet even in the last parts of the world.
As the commentors said before me it is a global market and bans won't help the local providers. They will either face the competition with good offers or will on the long run go bankrupt.
The UAE have fallen foul of their own greed, wanting to leech off the expats by charging extortionate rates for phone calls and internet usage, while exercising big brother control.
You reap what you sow.