x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Businesses call for cheaper mobile tariffs from Etisalat and du

Businesses report high levels of dissatisfaction with the pricing of mobile calling rates in the UAE.

Many survey respondents said mobile phone charges by operators Etisalat and du were too expensive. Philip Cheung / The National
Many survey respondents said mobile phone charges by operators Etisalat and du were too expensive. Philip Cheung / The National

Businesses in the UAE say mobile phone tariffs are too high, with almost half dissatisfied with international calling fees.

A wide-ranging survey by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) found that most business users were happy with the quality of service in the UAE.

But many respondents said mobile phone charges by operators Etisalat and du were too expensive, especially international rates and for calls made from abroad.

"There is an element of dissatisfaction with the prices for business services," said Fintan Healy, the executive director of regulatory affairs at the TRA.

The survey found that 46 per cent of businesses were dissatisfied with the cost of international calls placed by mobile phone, compared with just 37 per cent who were happy with the fees.

A similar proportion of respondents felt the same about mobile roaming rates.

The price of some telecoms services are certainly higher in the UAE.

This week, the consultancy Ovum said consumer broadband fees in the UAE were among the most expensive worldwide.

Entry level digital subscriber line (DSL) subscriptions cost US$868 (Dh3,188) annually in the UAE - more than eight times the cost of a basic connection in countries such as Russia, India and Ukraine.

Mr Healy said the TRA "encouraged competition" between the UAE's two primary telecoms operators.

"Over the last two years, the average price of calls has been falling. And that is something that we intend to encourage," he said. "We will continue to maintain pro-competitive policies, and continue to assess prices"

He said that the upcoming fixed-line sharing agreement in the UAE - through which Etisalat and du will compete across the country on landline and broadband services - was set to lower rates.

"That in itself we believe will put downward pressure on prices," he said.

Despite the findings of the TRA survey, international calling rates can be lower in the UAE compared with other markets.

Etisalat charges Dh2.12 per minute for a peak-time call to the US.

In contrast, the North American operator Verizon Wireless charges more than $0.65 (Dh2.39) per minute for calls to the UAE, according to its website.

Overall satisfaction in UAE telecoms services was found to be high, more than 80 per cent of respondents saying they were satisfied with landline and internet services.

But only 18 per cent were satisfied with mobile internet fees, while 38 per cent said they were too expensive.

"We think what this is saying is 'mobile internet is expensive for what you get', which is probably a fair remark," said Mr Healy.

The survey found that 40 per cent of businesses spent more than Dh3,000 a month on mobile services.

The TRA's survey was based on face-to-face interviews with 1,500 businesses across the UAE. It covered businesses with 10 or more employees.

Commentators said that while the cost of telecoms services may be more expensive in some parts of the Gulf, they were offset by higher income.

"The Gulf states do not have the lowest rates absolutely, but as a percentage of income they are very reasonable," said Jawad Abbassi, the founder and general manager of the Arab Advisors Group, a regional consultancy.

bflanagan@thenational.ae