UAE lags behind Arab world on telecoms competition

Saudi tops new Arab Advisors Group index, while UAE remains in lower ranks
The UAE continues to lag behind many other countries in the region in terms of the cost of mobile services.
The UAE continues to lag behind many other countries in the region in terms of the cost of mobile services.

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Competition in the UAE's telecoms sector is still dragging behind most of the Arab world, according to new data released by the Arab Advisors Group.

Its Cellular Competition Intensity Index for 2011 reveals that the UAE's score of 47.1% is only marginally better than in 2010 and is one of the worst in the region.

The lowly standing comes despite efforts by the UAE's telecom regulator to increase competition following new regulations issued in early 2010.

Saudi Arabia topped the list this year with a score of 76%, representing high levels of competition in the kingdom's telecommunications sector.

The Arab Advisors Group said the score was achieved due to the country having four competitors in the market and 19 prepaid and 23 post-paid plans available for customers to choose from.

Behind Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Oman and Egypt made up the five most competitive markets, the index showed.

By contrast, only Syria, Libya and Lebanon had a less competitive telecoms market than the UAE.

The 2011 index results revealed that four countries ranked higher than their 2010 scores - Algeria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania - while the UAE was one of 12 that maintained its ranking.

Three countries ranked lower compared to 2010, namely Jordan, Sudan, and Yemen.

The UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority published its new regulations to ensure greater competition between operators Etisalat and Du in January 2010.

The TRA said it would crack down on any anti-competitive practices, adding that any complaints lodged by either company would be investigated.

Last month, the TRA announced that plans for phone number portability in the UAE will be pushed back to the third quarter to address technical issues.

The move, which is meant to boost competition in the saturated UAE market, had already been delayed once to the second quarter.

The plan would mean customers of Etisalat and Du will be able to keep their old telephone number if they switch providers.

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