x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sunday rings in the changes for UAE mobile users

TRA says mobile number portability (MNP) between Etisalat and du will be ready to launch from Sunday through a central system established for the service, while the two providers have until December 30 to actually complete the transfer.

Mobile users in the UAE will be able to change their phone company while keeping their phone number by the end of this month, the country’s telecoms regulator says.

In a statement late yesterday, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said mobile number portability (MNP) between Etisalat and du would be ready to launch from Sunday through a central system established for the service.

That date had been set earlier as the deadline for implementation.

The TRA also said it was giving the two providers until December 30 “to prepare their commercial offerings and sales channels”, and to actually transfer subscribers.

The regulator said that the service would be “promoting greater levels of competition” and “improving the level of service available for consumers”.

According to the TRA, mobile-phone penetration in the UAE is currently at 181 per cent and smartphone penetration is 73.8 per cent.

Analysts say that the introduction of MNP will probably not have a big effect on the two operators’ share of mobile subscriptions.

“MNP has not had a big impact when it has been introduced in markets with similar characteristics to the UAE, such as a fairly high percentage of mobile subscriptions being prepaid,” said Matthew Reed, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media in Dubai.

“That’s not to say the operators can or should ignore it, and we are likely to see a lot of marketing activity designed to retain existing customers and encourage customers of the rival – particularly higher-value customers – to defect,” Mr Reed added.

Mobile number portability has been on the agenda of the federal TRA for about three years but was delayed because of technical difficulties.

The World Trade Organization and the World Bank say portability is a way to open up the telecoms sector for competition. As of today, mobile number portability is available for fixed lines and mobile in 75 of 193 United Nations member states. Oman and Qatar were the most recent Arabian Gulf countries to introduce the service.

sgazzar@thenational.ae