A fall in revenue at home was offset by gains in foreign markets.
Net income fell to Dh1.81 billion (US$493 million) from Dh1.82bn a year earlier, the country's largest telecommunications firm said.
"Etisalat is still not getting to grips with its competition from du," said Matthew Reed, a telecoms and media analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media.
"The difficulty Etisalat is facing is that its international revenues are growing but there is a year-on-year decline in its home market."
The results, although higher than analysts' forecasts, reflect the growing pressure Etisalat is facing from du.
Revenue in the first three months rose to Dh8.2bn, up from Dh8.04bn in the same period last year, but domestic revenue dropped to Dh6.08bn from Dh6.25bn over the same period.
Etisalat's mobile subscriptions in the UAE totalled 6.93 million at the end of the first quarter, sliding from 7.8 million at the end of last year. Also down were fixed line subscriptions, which fell to 1.02 million from 1.05 million at the end of the previous quarter.
Internet subscriptions stood at 0.78 million at the end of the first quarter.
In response to its declining dominance at home, Etisalat has been increasingly focusing on foreign markets. Its income from international operations rose 21 per cent to Dh2.28bn in the first quarter, compared with the year-earlier period.
But the company has also faced pitfalls in its operations abroad, although the total number of Etisalat's subscribers rose to 169 million against 135 million a year earlier.
In February, Etisalat launched a fraud claim against its partners in India after it incurred Dh1bn of losses in one of the country's most serious corruption scandals.
The UAE operator entered the Indian market in 2009 by acquiring a $900m stake in Swan Telecom, which was later renamed Etisalat DB.
The same month, investors reacted positively when Etisalat said it planned to pay a dividend for last year and recommended a restructuring of operations aimed at reducing costs.
The UAE operator also announced a plan to outsource its business support services, a move it said would help reduce operating costs.