The iPhone is coming to du. The UAE's second-largest telecommunications company said it would begin offering the latest version of the device, the iPhone 3GS, later this month and would allow customers to pre-book orders on its website from today. The date of availability and pricing plans were not disclosed. A du spokesman said those details were still being finalised. Last week, the newspaper Emarat al Youm reported that du's main competitor, Etisalat, which has been selling the iPhone 3G since February, would also be offering the new 3GS this month.
The availability of the smartphone on two national carriers marks a sort of coup for du. The company has begun moving away from its discount-centric offerings and instead has been focusing on higher-end subscribers. It recently introduced monthly BlackBerry packages for small businesses and has quietly made competitive mobile data plans available. For example, Dh200 will buy two gigabytes of mobile data with du, but only one gigabyte with Etisalat.
Apple said when it introduced the iPhone 3GS in June that the device would be available in the UAE two months later. But neither du nor Etisalat has come out with a 3GS plan until now. The UAE is the second country in the Middle East to get the iPhone, after Egypt. Since Apple introduced the original iPhone in June 2007, mobile operators worldwide have clamoured to offer it. More than 21 million units have been sold to date.
While consumers have been attracted to the iPhone's touchscreen user interface, operators have enjoyed healthy profits by signing subscribers to lengthy and expensive data plans. Separately, Millicom said yesterday it had agreed to sell its Sri Lankan mobile operations to Etisalat for US$155 million (Dh569m), completing a divestment programme, according to Agence France-Presse. Millicom International Cellular, based in Luxembourg, said it expected to complete the sale by October 20.
"We are very pleased to have agreed to sell our Sri Lanka operations to Etisalat," the chief executive, Mikael Grahne, said on the company's website. Etisalat was buying a company with "a strong market position", he said. Millicom, which operates in 16 countries, announced earlier this year that it would sell its operations in Cambodia, Laos and Sri Lanka to focus on Latin America and Africa. The Cambodia and Laos firms have already been sold.
"This agreement represents the final element of our recent divestment programme and will leave the group well positioned to focus on the significant long-term growth opportunities in Latin America and Africa," Mr Grahne said. Sri Lanka became the first South Asian country to introduce cellular phones when it unveiled an analog network in 1989. Home to 20 million people, Sri Lanka's five-player market had 11.5 million mobile phone users at the end of April, according official figures.