x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ban lifted on du calling internet service 4G

The UAE's telecoms regulator lifts a ban on du using the term "4G" to describe its mobile-data network.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has lifted the ban on du marketing its mobile internet service sa 4G. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has lifted the ban on du marketing its mobile internet service sa 4G. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

The UAE's telecommunications regulator has lifted a ban on du marketing its mobile internet service as 4G, in a move set to further boost competition between the operator and its rival Etisalat.

Both UAE telecoms operators claimed to be first in the country to launch super-fast "fourth generation" internet services.

This led to action by the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), which last month forced du to suspend a marketing campaign that referred to its mobile broadband network as 4G.

Du's network, which uses a technology called HSPA+, offers speeds of 42 megabits per second (mbps). Etisalat is marketing its 4G network, which uses the more advanced long-term evolution (LTE) technology, as offering speeds of 100mbps.

Following an investigation by the TRA, the authority has said that du can restart its 4G advertising campaign, with the proviso that the technology used to deliver it is clearly specified.

"We have received a clearance from the TRA to market the HSPA+ service as 4G," said Osman Sultan, the chief executive of du.

Mohamed Al Ghanim, the director general of the TRA, confirmed the ban had been lifted. However, he said both UAE telecoms operators would have to "clearly" specify the technology used in delivering 4G services.

Mr Sultan said that, "for the sake of transparency", du would refer to its slower network as "4G HSPA+". "We certainly do not want to create any confusion," he added.

Mobile broadband is regarded as an increasingly important revenue stream for Middle East operators, amid declining income from voice calls.

Du is approaching parity with Etisalat in terms of mobile subscribers - and both operators are looking to data services to boost revenues.

Commentators said relaxation of the rules on 4G as a marketing term could help to boost competition between the two telecoms providers.

"I think it will certainly help du to be seen as offering an alternative to Etisalat's recently launched 4G service, so in that sense it will keep them competitive for the time being," said Dino Wilkinson, a communications specialist and partner at the law firm Norton Rose Middle East.

Matthew Willsher, the chief marketing officer at Etisalat, said he saw "huge demand" for mobile broadband. Long-term evolution (LTE) networks such as that provided by Etisalat were "far superior" to the slower technology used by du, he said.

There is widespread confusion among consumers as to what constitutes 4G. According to a survey by Nielsen, 49 per cent of US adults do not understand what is meant by the term.

The International Telecommunications Union sets the standards on what can be classed as 4G. However, the organisation relaxed its definitions last December, when it said LTE, Wimax and even some third-generation networks could be classed as 4G.

Mr Sultan said du planned to boost the speed of its 4G network to 81mbps, from 42mbps. It also plans to launch an LTE service - similar to that used by Etisalat - "in the coming months".

bflanagan@thenational.ae

gvanzyl@thenational.ae

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