x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Etisalat's Sharjah centre to put customers in picture

A new Etisalat centre in Sharjah will give Etisalat customers more channels when it starts broadcasting internet TV as well as conventional transmissions.

Etisalat's move to set up a broadcast centre comes as it faces increased competition from du. Jaime Puebla / The National
Etisalat's move to set up a broadcast centre comes as it faces increased competition from du. Jaime Puebla / The National

Etisalat customers are set to have a bigger choice of channels when a new broadcasting centre in Sharjah becomes operational.

The centre will be able to broadcast internet TV as well as conventional transmissions and is expected to put Etisalat at the forefront of a global trend among telecommunications companies joining the broadcast industry.

"The new [broadcast] centre will be one of the most modern in the region," said Stephan Seelaender, the general manager of Qvest Media, which won the contract to build the facility.

"It will combine the technical environment for 'classical' broadcasting and IPTV [internet protocol TV] distribution in one single, interconnected infrastructure."

The project, which will replace an existing broadcast facility in Sharjah, is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year, said Humaid Sahoo, the chief executive of Etisalat's e-vision unit.

The centre will be able to handle the production and transmission of 20 channels, but will initially broadcast nine including one focused on viewers from the subcontinent called e-masala and a children's channel called e-junior.

Etisalat's move to set up a broadcast centre comes as it faces increased competition from du, whose market share grew from 30.99 per cent in 2009 to 35.82 per cent last year according to a recent report by Al Ramz Securities.

In the fixed-line market, which includes landlines and broadband internet, du's market share grew from 23.67 per cent in 2009 to 31.2 per cent last year, said the report.

"I don't think [Etisalat] wants to lose any more in the mobile market but they also want to make as strong a go as possible of their remaining dominance in the fixed market," said Matthew Reed, a senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

Part of Etisalat's fixed-line strategy is its eLife package that uses fibre-optic technology to give its customers access to telephone, high-speed internet and high-definition TV services. Such high definition and TV services in the UAE is also offered by du in addition to its voice and internet services.

"This massive investment that [Etisalat] made in the nationwide roll-out of fibre to the home network - they want to make as much advantage of that as possible. And I guess one way to do that is to go deep into the content side and make sure they have a compelling content offering," said Mr Reed. "It's potentially a risky thing to do in that most telcos, including Etisalat, don't really have the deep expertise of content."

Etisalat is among the first telecoms companies globally to enter the broadcast industry. Others such as NTT in Japan, Verizon in the USA and Deutsche Telekom in Germany, have also built their own video broadcast infrastructure to diversify revenues away from voice and internet segments.

gvanzyl@thenational.ae