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Mon 16 Apr 2007 03:00 PM

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Watchdog targets UAE mobile networks

Local telcoms regulator aims to improve coverage by evaluating both Etisalat and du.

The UAE's telecommunications watchdog is set to begin evaluating the coverage and quality of the emirate's two mobile networks, it was announced today.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said it will assess both Etisalat and du, and may require the former to invest in improving its mobile network after completing a study to find gaps in coverage.

"Maintaining a healthy mobile network is a challenge, operators need to continuously adapt to changes in their cellular network that may affect its performance by means of optimisation and network monitoring," said Saif Bin Ghelaita, Manager of Wireless Networks and Services at the TRA.

The TRA has deployed teams across the United Arab Emirates to test the "coverage and quality" of Etisalat's mobile networks, the TRA said in a statement.

"Many factors affect the cellular network such as the increase in the number of users, the introduction of different services and the establishment of new sites in the network.

"The cellular network works like a mesh where one site can affect a larger area containing several sites," he added.

"Etisalat will have to improve coverage in these areas," said Rasheed Joumblatt, the TRA's senior media relations officer.

"There are many people saying the network coverage is not comprehensive and there are many complaints," he said. "Improving network coverage is one of our strategic goals to get the market ready for competition."

Etisalat officials were not immediately available for comment.

Etisalat lost its monopoly on mobile phone services in the UAE, the second-largest Arab economy, when du telecom started operations in February.

Etisalat had 5.5 million mobile phone subscribers at the end of 2006.

The TRA will release findings of the study and consult Etisalat on how to improve the coverage.

The regulator would test network coverage every three months, Joumblatt said.

"We are sending teams into the field to go and test the networks because we want to try to cover all spots in the UAE, even in the desert."

Du's mobile network coverage will also be tested in later, he said.

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