The UAE has a very strong mobile market and it is closely guarded by the two major operators of Etisalat and du. In 2018 both Etisalat and du are demonstrating keen interest in developing 5G technology and are strongly supported by the TRA which has identified the spectrum bands which will be made available for deployment.
Both operators are majority owned by the government. In 2017 the first two MVNOs began offering services in the UAE – however this has not impacted upon competition in any significant way as both are wholly owned either by du and Etisalat. The operators however are facing challenges with the saturated mobile market stifling voice growth.
Etisalat and du have both deployed sophisticated HSPA+ and LTE networks that cover most of the population, underpinning growth opportunities centred on mobile broadband, content and applications. Smart phones are becoming increasingly popular, accounting for the majority of the mobile handsets. The growing availability of low cost smart phones has driven mobile broadband penetration up sharply in the last couple of years.
The well-established fibre-broadband network in the UAE is providing the operators with opportunities to grow new services and offerings such as triple-play.
- Recently the TRA was encouraging affordable roaming rates within GCC countries;
- In 2018 Etisalat sold its 28% share of Thuraya;
- The UAE has attracted international interest from data centre operators;
- Licensed VoIP offerings were launched by the operators in 2017;
- The UAE hopes to commercially launch 5G in 2020.
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