x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Du picks up the pace with 4G mobile broadband

Du launches a 4G service fast enough to download a movie in just two and a half minutes, amid what it says is a growing demand for mobile broadband.

Subscriptions cost Dh555 a month, plus a one-off payment of Dh799 for a USB modem, which allows subscribers to access the 4G network via their laptop. Galen Clarke / The National
Subscriptions cost Dh555 a month, plus a one-off payment of Dh799 for a USB modem, which allows subscribers to access the 4G network via their laptop. Galen Clarke / The National

Du yesterday launched a 4G service fast enough to download a movie in just two and a half minutes, amid what it says is a growing demand for mobile broadband.

The UAE telecommunications firm plans to charge subscribers Dh555 (US$151) a month for the speedy mobile-data service, which is currently available through a USB modem.

The 4G launch comes as operators across the globe pin their hopes on mobile data and home broadband, as revenues from traditional voice calling decline.

Du’s network uses long-term evolution (LTE) technology, which offers speeds of 100 megabits per second. This is fast enough to download a movie in just two and a half minutes, or eight times faster than the current mobile-data network, du said.

Farid Faraidooni, the chief commercial officer at du, said that the service offers “some of the fastest internet connection speeds in the world”.

He said the LTE network is up to 2.3 times faster than HSPA+,du’s older mobile-data network.

Du had previously marketed its existing HSPA+ network as 4G. However, in the Middle East it is more common for networks advertised as 4G to use the faster LTE technology, which du has now implemented.

The launch comes more than six months after a similar announcement made by du’s rival, Etisalat.

Du’s package includes a monthly line-rental charge of Dh55, plus Dh500 for 25 gigabytes of data transfer, which it says is an introductory offer. Users must also make a one-off payment of Dh799 for a USB modem.

Etisalat offers more varied packages, with prices tiered according to data use. These range from Dh29 per month for 100 megabytes of data, to Dh449 for 20 gigabytes.

Hatem Bamatraf, the executive vice president for network development and operations at du, said there was “a lot of interest” in 4G services in the UAE.

“We believe that the demand is there in the market,” he said. “There is a lot of growth expected in mobile broadband.”

Mr Bamatraf declined to specify how many subscribers du expects, or the investment it made in its 4G network.

The network was ready about six months ago, but du launched its commercial services only yesterday, Mr Bamatraf said.

The high-speed 4G connections are available in the urban areas of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but not in some of the more remote areas of the country.

Subscribers will initially be able to access du’s 4G network only by using a “dongle”, which plugs into the USB port of a computer.

However, Mr Bamatraf said he expected 4G-compatible smartphones and tablets to hit the UAE market soon.

Other operators in the Gulf region have also launched 4G networks in the past year. Etisalat and Zain Saudi Arabia admitted in April that uptake had been “slow”.

However, operators expect the arrival of new 4G tablets and smartphones to give the market a boost.

Globally, there are just 15 million LTE subscribers, more than half of whom are claimed by the United States operator Verizon Wireless, according to Informa Telecoms & Media.

Revenues from landline calls in the UAE declined between 2009 and last year, according to a report published yesterday by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

“The majority of the decline comes from a decline in international voice revenue, which fell by 28 per cent [last year] compared to the previous year,” the report noted.

However, the TRA’s report said mobile subscriptions grew last year to reach 11.7 million, while the number of internet connections is also on the rise.

There were 326,000 mobile-data users in the UAE at the end of last year, according to the TRA.

In 2011, the telecoms sector contributed nearly 4.9 per cent of the UAE’s GDP and provided employment to 10,798 people, the TRA said.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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