TRA to impose Open Network Access on telecoms

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UAE’s telecom regulatory body says Etisalat and Du, the two main telecom operators in the Emirate, have failed to make any progress in reaching a network sharing deal.

UAE Telecom
The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) may require bitstream sharing, opening up access for both Etisalat and Du. Photo: Hisham bin Suwaif/Flickr

Talks on the proposed network sharing deal between the two rival companies had started almost four years ago. The majority government-owned companies had begun technology trials for network sharing more than two years back. It was expected that a deal would be reached by the end of 2011. The deal would allow them to compete on fixed line services by sharing each others network. Currently, both Du and Etisalat offer fixed-line, broadband and television packages in the UAE. However, they do not operate in the same districts and Du is limited to newer areas of Dubai.

The latest report by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) reveals that the companies have a dispute about the extent of bitstream access, which would enable one operator to permit the other to use its fixed network or establishing a fee for allowing such access.

According to the report, “the two licensees are still negotiating. Bitstream access could have a significant impact on competition.”

Du and Etisalat have been involved in an intense battle to secure mobile subscribers in the UAE. After the end of Etisalat’s monopoly in 2007, Du has quickly won about 48 percent of the UAE’s mobile subscribers market. Although the regulator has planned to introduce further market liberalization measures, such as mobile number portability, there has been little progress on these fronts.

The regulatory body remains committed to opening up the market for competition so that consumers may freely choose the most competitive services.

The report states that the TRA will, “impose a requirement to offer bitstream access products for both residential and business markets.”

By introducing this requirement, it would seek to end the deadlock in negotiations between the two telecom operators.

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