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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Virgin's entry promises to shake-up mobile sector

Innovative services from EITC's new brand may have spillover effect to rivals

Du's parent company EITC launched services under the Virgin Mobile brand in September. Christopher Pike / The National
Du's parent company EITC launched services under the Virgin Mobile brand in September. Christopher Pike / The National

Variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes. So the official launch yesterday of Virgin Mobile should, on the face of it, spice up the lives of those in the UAE that have long pined for an alternative to the mobile offerings of du and Etisalat.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. The smiling sales people at Virgin Mobile stalls in malls throughout the UAE will, eventually, admit that the newest “entrant” in the market is not actually a new operator after all, but a branded service offered by Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, otherwise known as du.

So if you can only get du reception when leaning over your balcony, having a Virgin Mobile SIM may not change things much.

The cynical view is that du has brought in the Virgin Mobile brand as a means of dressing up its existing product – voice, texts, and data – in a shiny new package to tempt customers, changing little but the branding.

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Read more:

Du owner to bring Virgin Mobile brand to UAE

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But such a view ignores the fact that a compelling customer experience is part and parcel of a company’s product, especially when it comes to telecoms services. And in this area EITC and Virgin Mobile are offering some very welcome innovations.

The fact that Virgin Mobile customers will be able, in theory at least, be able to manage their account exclusively via the Virgin Mobile app – enabling you to choose your own number and create your own tariff – will, if executed efficiently, be a boon for the brand’s intended millennial customer base, for whom shopping and managing their lives via smartphone has become second nature.

Such efficiencies may, if all goes to plan, be incorporated in turn into du’s offering, with EITC only too keen to use such innovations to cut costs and boost profitability, with Etisalat also likely to sit up and take notes as well.

Falling under the same umbrella as du, Virgin Mobile is unlikely to undercut its big brother on price, meaning those hoping for cheaper bills will likely be disappointed. But if the new brand’s entrance into the UAE prompts du and Etisalat to up their game in terms of customer service and user experience, then everyone is likely to end up better off in the long run.

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