x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

UAE broadband choice long way off, says telecoms regulator

The telecoms regulator has poured cold water on hopes that consumers could soon have a choice between Etisalat and du for their home internet provider.

Etisalat was ordered by the TRA in July to share its infrastructure with du to give consumers a choice. Delores Johnson / The National
Etisalat was ordered by the TRA in July to share its infrastructure with du to give consumers a choice. Delores Johnson / The National

DUBAI// The telecoms regulator has poured cold water on hopes that consumers could soon have a choice of home internet provider.

Only a day after announcing that mobile-phone users could switch between du and Etisalat while retaining their phone number, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority admitted a similar deal on broadband, TV and landline packages was a long way off.

“It is technically feasible but it is a challenge because of the bitstream technology we use in this country,” said the authority’s director general, Mohamed Al Ghanim.

The TRA ordered Etisalat in July to share its infrastructure with du to give consumers a choice, and a week later Etisalat promised that network sharing would be in place in less than a year.

“It is very complex, this is not something that can be done overnight. We are over the technical complexities, we are almost there. It is now a commercial matter,” Abdulrahman Almulla, a senior vice president at Etisalat, said then.

Now, however, the TRA says there is not yet a financial formula for the two operators to use each other’s infrastructure, and no timeframe for establishing one.

“There needs to be a formula so that if Etisalat uses a du network or vice versa they know how much they have to pay to use it,” Mr Al Ghanim said.

“If du, for example, have laid down the line to your house they know exactly the distribution point even down to the dialing details, which allows them to activate services very quickly.

“When you go to a new operator all this information needs to be collected by your new operator.

“So this customer experience movement from one to the other is a very big and complex one and we need to get that right.

“We as the TRA don’t want a situation where the service is launched and then crippled. We want to make sure the service is launched and the customer is happy.”

nhanif@thenational.ae