By Maddy Reddy
Dr. Mohammed Khalfan Bin Kharbash, UAE Minister of State for Finance & Industry and chairman of Etisalat has announced new plans to tackle impending competition expected from deregulation, besides expand its mobile services to the Saudi market.
Dr. Mohammed Khalfan Bin Kharbash, UAE Minister of State for Finance & Industry and chairman of Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) has announced new plans to tackle impending competition expected from deregulation besides expand its mobile services to the Saudi market.
“Etisalat will soon embark on the next phase of the corporation’s development including adopting a new style of conducting business, marketing innovation and cutting-edge customer service. The focus will be on the customer - the engine of our future growth,” says Dr.Kharbash.
The company operates nine business units, two subsidiaries and has a number of regional investments in telecom partners. Its customer base includes 1.1 million fixed lines, three million mobile users and a growing internet user penetration, which is one of the highest in the Middle East.
With penetration at over 75%, the UAE mobile market is amongst the most advanced in the world both in terms of customer usage and network technology, such as the availability of MMS, GPRS, WAP services and most recently Mubashir, the first 3G network in the Middle East. Etisalat is also expected to roll out a fully converged voice, video and data network in 2005.
The corporation’s market capitalisation of US$11.7 billion represents almost a quarter of the total capitalisation of UAE financial markets. Last year’s profits totaled US$781 million.
Etisalat has already been actively developing its interests over a broader canvas. It has a sizeable stake in Thuraya Mobile Satellite Company, the satellite-based telecom service provider, and interests in Qatar Telecom (Q-Tel) and in other telecoms operators in the region. Just recently, Etisalat passed the pre-qualification phase in its application for the second mobile operator license in Saudi Arabia. Etisalat hopes to be the frontrunner for the second Saudi Arabian mobile phone licence when bidding closes on June 26, less than four weeks from now.
“The deregulation is of strategic importance to the UAE economy since it paves the way for a new era of openness and integration that combines operators, suppliers and expertise from across the region. Ultimately it drives competition, market growth, technology and service improvements as well as value and choice for the customer. We see deregulation of the telecom market as an opportunity to further strengthen our position,” adds Dr. Kharbash.
Dr. Kharbash is confident that Etisalat would maintain its competitiveness in pricing of services in a deregulated environment. “In a newly deregulated scenario, prices will be driven by market forces. Etisalat will display an edge here due to economies of scale and operational efficiency.”
Etisalat is also eyeing the untapped potential in the corporate sector, especially within small and medium size enterprises, which comprise 70% of the UAE economy and increase the revenue per customer through value-added services.
“One of our key objectives will be to ensure that we continue to be an innovation-driven company and this can be achieved through a customer-centric mindset at Etisalat. This will further consolidate our leadership position as a formidable force in the international telecom industry,” he says.