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Tue 10 Nov 2009 03:56 PM

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UAE's Etisalat to spend $1.4bn on fibre optics

'The UAE is to be covered 90% by fibre optic network by 2011' - Etisalat chairman.

The UAE's
Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat)

is investing about AED5bn ($1.36bn) to boost fibre optic coverage across the country by 2011, its chairman said on Tuesday.

Etisalat

, the Arab world's second biggest telecoms firm, has faced increased competition in its home market after its monopoly was broken in 2007 by Dubai-based
du

.

"The UAE is to be covered 90 percent by fibre optic network by 2011," Mohammed Hassan Omran said at a conference organised by London-based MEED, adding fibre optics covered about 60 percent of the oil exporting country at present.

"The total cost of the project is AED5bn," Omran told reporters.

Omran said the government had approved plans for
Etisalat

's fibre optic network to be used by other operators on a commercial basis.

Fibre optics are glass or plastic fibres widely used in communications enabling transmission over longer distances and at higher bandwidths compared to other forms of communication.

Thousands of expatriates have lost their jobs in the Gulf trade and tourism hub of Dubai since the global financial crisis took hold, hitting earnings across sectors, but both
Etisalat

and
du

saw better than expected third-quarter results signalling the worst may be behind them.

Etisalat

, which operates in 18 countries, including Egypt and India, is one of a number of Gulf Arab telecom operators that have expanded overseas after losing their monopolies at home.

Omran also said he expected better opportunities for bond issuance in 2010.

Etisalat

's chief financial officer said last month that the firm was finalising a medium-term note programme targeting international markets to help finance its overseas expansion.

"It seems the market is ready and UAE companies can get good ratings," Omran said on Tuesday. "Financial institutions have told us there is a better environment next year."

Etisalat

has long been on the acquisition prowl and said last November it had more than $3 billion in cash on hand to fund purchases in 2009.

It is currently awaiting the outcome of bids for a fixed and mobile phone licence in OPEC member Libya and has said it remains interested in entering Morocco's telecom sector.

Etislat

shares closed 0.43 percent up at 11.6 dirhams. ($1=3.673 UAE dirham) (Reuters)

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