Mobile phone air-time rates in the UAE are cheaper than the regional average, the Arab Advisers Group said yesterday. A report by the Jordan-based research firm, which analysed the average cost per minute of mobile air-time charges in 19 regional countries, ranked the UAE as 12th-most expensive for post-paid charges, up from 17th in a previous survey in 2006. For prepaid charges, the Emirates ranked 17th this year, from 19th in 2006, then the cheapest rates in the region. Faten Bader, a senior research analyst at the Arab Advisors Group, said the UAE moved up the rankings because its rates stayed static while other countries' rates had fallen. Considering the spending power of the Emirates and other GCC nations, the UAE's mobile rates were reasonable, she said. "The Gulf countries have high GDP and generally the [rates] are all below the average, and they do not pay taxes on the services," said Ms Bader. "Compared to Jordan, with a 20 per cent tax on the minute rate and connection fee, it makes a big difference." In the survey, Lebanon had the highest rates for prepaid services and Morocco was the most expensive for post-paid calls. Mobile users in Egypt enjoy the lowest prepaid rate, while Yemenis pay the cheapest post-paid rate. The most dramatic drop in rates was in Egypt, which had the fourth-most expensive prepaid rate in 2006 and now had the cheapest per-minute prepaid charge, said Ms Bader. "More competition happened in Egypt, that's why," she said. "And introduction of a third mobile operator, also that changed the rates." The results were similar to a report produced in June last year by Teligen, commissioned by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Bahrain, which examined mobile rates across the Middle East. In that report, the UAE's mobile rates via du and Etisalat were ranked as the three cheapest for either low, medium or high-usage services. Since du broke Etisalat's monopoly in 2006, it has been aggressive in its marketing with added-value services such as free SIM cards and cutting international call costs, said Simon Simonian, a research analyst at Shuaa Capital. He expects this competition to keep mobile phone costs on a stable or downwards trend. While the UAE took a big jump in the rankings for post-paid rates, less than 8 per cent of all mobile phone customers subscribed to this service, he said, adding the UAE had seen record rates of high inflation last year but mobile phone charges held steady. "The basic rate hasn't changed," said Mr Simonian. "But you are getting free credits, promotions, and the other point is that everything is getting more expensive, but your telephone bill is not changing. Indirectly, it is getting cheaper." firstname.lastname@example.org
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