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2009 United Arab Emirates - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

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Last updated: 8 Sep 2009 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 49

Analyst: Tine Lewis

Publication Overview

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the trends and developments in fixed-line and mobile telephony, Internet and broadband and new technologies. Subjects include:

·         Key statistics;

·         Market and industry overviews;

·         Regulatory environment;

·         Major players (fixed and mobile);

·         Infrastructure developments;

·         Mobile voice and data markets;

·         Broadband and Internet markets.


Researcher:- Tine Lewis

Current publication date: September 2009 (8th Edition)

Next publication date:- September 2010

Executive Summary

BuddeComm’s annual publication, UAE - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband, provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications and digital media markets in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).


The UAE is one of the most advanced markets in the Middle East but is the least liberalised with little competition and no foreign investment. All other countries in the region have allowed operators from the region or further afield to buy (or in the case of Lebanon, operate) second and/or third mobile licences and, in some cases, fixed-line and Internet provision licences but the UAE market is served by only two operators, both of them operating in all sectors and both of them majority government-owned.


That said, second operator du, launched in 2007, is gaining ground despite inter-connection difficulties and no number portability. It also made a profit for the first time in the last quarter of 2008 and has continued to do so since. It is helped in the mobile market by the UAE’s very high expatriate population (around 80% of the total), which provides a pool of constantly changing potential new subscribers. This fluid expatriate population may also be a factor in the UAE’s very high mobile penetration rate, of over 200%.


du’s fixed-line and broadband Internet services, together with TV, are provided over its FttH network, which serves new developments in Dubai. Etisalat is also building an FttH network, with which it aims to cover the majority of the country by end-2011. Etisalat expects to complete the Abu Dhabi stage by end-2009 and claims that Abu Dhabi will be the first capital city in the world to be completely served by FttH. By mid-2009 both Etisalat and du claimed their networks were available to over 300,000 homes.


Internet and broadband penetration rates are higher than most countries in the region, with only Qatar at similar levels. Internet penetration is at least 60%. A 2008 survey by the regulator, the TRA, found that 66% of all households in the UAE had Internet access and 83% of UAE national households had Internet access, of which 95% was broadband.


Government policies over many years have given great encouragement to increase levels of ICT development. Many of the region’s major digital media companies are based in the UAE, particularly in Dubai. These include Tejari, a major portal for all Business-to-Business (B2B) e-commerce transactions. Both federal and emirate governments have invested considerable sums in e-government.


In addition, around 25% of the region’s burgeoning Free-to-Air and pay DTH satellite TV channels are based in the UAE. While most of the TV in the Middle East is FTA DTH and is pan-regional in production and availability, the UAE has higher pay-TV subscriber numbers than most other countries in the region due to a ban on ‘unsightly’ satellite dishes in many areas. Subscribers access either the cable network of Etisalat’s subsidiary e-vision or the IPTV offered by du.


Key highlights:

·         Second telco du has made a surprisingly large impact, winning a 30% share of the mobile market by mid-2009 plus a 10% share of the fixed-line and broadband Internet markets.

·         Etisalat is investing in an FttH network. At April 2009 Etisalat claimed it had connected 300,000 homes, with the whole of Abu Dhabi expected to be completed before end-2009. Work will commence later in Dubai and Sharjah. Completion is expected by 2011.

·         The UAE has sky-high mobile penetration of over 200%.

·         Etisalat is a major international player, with operations in 17 countries outside its home market, in Africa, Asia and elsewhere in the Middle East. It claims to be one of the most profitable telcos in the world in mid-2009.

·         The ban of VoIP services is a very contentious issue.


UAE – key telecom parameters – 2008 - 2009




Fixed-line services:

·         Total subscribers (million)



·         Annual growth



·         Fixed-line penetration (population)



Broadband Internet:

·         Total subscribers (million)



·         Annual growth



·         Broadband penetration (population)



·         Broadband penetration (household)



Mobile services:

·         Total subscribers (million)



·         Annual growth



·         Mobile penetration (population)



·         3G subscribers as a percentage of total



(Source: BuddeComm)


Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

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Paul, May I congratulate you on a very successful and enjoyable afternoon with the Minister. In providing the roundtable discussions between government and industry, it highlighted the strong interest by stakeholders in Broadband and its implementation but it also presented us with other issues and opportunities that we need to address.

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