The people in Dubai have spoken. A lot in fact, and often over the years. They want better communications services. This week a prominent businessman, Khalaf Al Habtoor added his voice.
In the past, a highly-respected Emirati current affairs commentator, Sultan Al Qassemi called for similar, saying poor communication services are holding us back.
People often ask: Why don’t we have free Whatsapp and Skype calls? Why are our data costs massive? Why are the TV and internet bundle packages forced together?
Before we give a view and a solution on this, lets look at the positives. The service we have now isn’t bad. Many countries have far more connection issues than here. Sure, it’s relatively expensive, but we are living in one of the best cities in the world, if not the best, and the cost of living here will be higher than other places on certain things. And sure, there are some services that are blocked, but that’s because they haven’t received licenses.
Having said that, it would be better all round if the communications services were on par with other major global cities.
dU and Etisalat are currently operating a monopoly of the telecommunications business in the UAE
The reason isn’t anything sinister on a government level, it’s purely down to the company set up, a duopoly by Etisalat and DU. This isn’t their fault, it happens in other industries too.
For Example, Emirates Airlines often negotiate hard with Airbus and Boeing to place aircraft orders, and the prices seem very high because there are only two providers. If more companies made the aircraft Emirates wanted to purchase, the prices would be cheaper.
The dynamics of an open market make it far more competitive and usually the consumers are the winners.
Telecommunications is an industry that needs to be regulated, like most countries do. But what happens elsewhere, is that new licenses are introduced. Either on the same terms or bidding for new networks such as 5G etc.
When dU and Etisalat introduce Virgin Mobile or SWPE, it’s not the same.
Neither dU or Etisalat are lobbying hard for regulation change, they don’t need to. It won’t necessarily get them more customers. It will just reduce margins.
We are not advocating for more difficult market conditions for both companies, far from it. There is sufficient evidence that three mobile operators can thrive and prosper in a nation of a population approaching 10 million. And the services they are providing (VOIP services and OTT streaming boxes) can continue to compete.
What sort of solution could work?
Similar to how the emirates have airlines (the UAE has Fly Dubai, Air Arabia, Emirates and Etihad) it could be a model worth replicating.
So another service could bid for a new license. They could remain semi-state, but they all compete with each other and lobby for regulation changes, so that they can provide products and services the consumer wants, to continue to improve their revenue.
I’m sure regional operators like Zain, Mobily or Ooredoo would love to come in, as would Vodafone and others.
But what if we got another mobile operator brand, and it’s one of our own
The name opportunities are endless.