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Accession Day 2003 Feature: ETISALAT

posted on 02/08/2003: 1670 views

At a time when a number of telecommunications companies in the West were announcing their losses and bankruptcy, like the WorldCom of the United States, which announced a staggering US$41billion loss last year, telecommunications sectors, in the UAE in particular and in the Gulf states in general, were writing stories of success by making huge profits, while their shares in the regional financial markets continue to soar steadily.

The Emirates Telecommunication Corporation, ETISALAT, has seen its revenue increasing steadily in the past few years. ETISALAT's revenue in 2001 was Dh5.5 million. It rose in 2002 to Dh8.4 million, making it to distribute Dh1.5 billion profit to its stakeholders up from the Dh1.406 billion it distributed to them in 2001. Stakeholders shares rose to Dh10.145billion last year from the Dh9.936 billion registered in 2001. ETISALAT has released last year a number of new services, including the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) known as m-NET for GSM subscribers, WASEL roaming service was also modernised using a smart network.

Text message service has been improved, as the SMS 2 FAX and E-MAIL service allows a subscriber to send SMS text messages to a fax number and to an email address. The fourth quarter of last year saw the introduction of the "Huloul” service, which links the university campus to the local area's network of Internet services. ETISALAT's customer service centres throughout the country became fully operational. This has saved customers the trouble of having to go to main offices to transact business.

Other new services introduced by ETISALAT include ETISALAT e-market and a special service, which allows customer to deal directly with ETISALAT, including enquiring about and settling of bills, recharging Wasel service, reporting of any service malfunctioning and complains, through the internet.

The rise in the UAE's per capita income on the one hand, and the easy availability and access to mobile phones on the other, particularly the prepaid card service, has made the UAE the first in the world in terms of access to mobile phone (mobile phone per person). By early this year, the number of mobile phone subscribers stood at 2.4million, representing an average of 70 mobile phones per 100 persons of the country's population.

The number of mobile phone subscribers in the Arab world in 2001 was 24 million, representing 8 percent of the Arab world population. This is against 26 per cent in the Gulf States and 17 per cent in the world. The UAE's percentage is the highest among the six Gulf states at 62 percent, Kuwait follows with 42.8 per cent, Bahrain at 42.5 per cent, Qatar 29.3 per cent, Oman 12.4 per cent and finally Saudi Arabia with 11.5 per cent. In the case of standard telephone lines, the number in the country has risen from 1.035million lines in 2001 to 1.094million, an average of 32 lines per every 100 persons. The recent cut in telephone call rate saw a sharp rise in the volume of calls, which reached 1.890billion minutes in 2002, an increase of 36 per cent over the previous year's.

According to a report from the International Wireless Telecommunications Association, IWTA, the UAE occupies the 19th spot on the list of countries in the world with high rate of Internet access. This position puts the country far ahead of a number of European countries. The number of Internet subscribers in the country rose sharply to over 290,000, representing more than one million users. This puts the UAE's Internet access rate at 30 per cent.

In 2000 ETISALAT set up the Emirates Internet and Multi-media, EIM, which is the sole Internet service provider in the country. Since its establishment, the EIM has witnessed a rapid growth in the number of subscribers to its digital multimedia subscriptions at a rate of 194 per cent. This is in addition to about 700 subscribers of the EIM rental lines. The number of Internet cafes in the major towns has also risen to 234 centres. These centres have become an integral part of business activities in the country. Comtrust, a business unit of ETISALAT for e-business solutions, was instituted in 1999 as an answer to the pressing need for a reliable e-business infrastructure in the Middle East region.

E-commerce solutions from Comtrust offer businesses, governments and consumers a cost effective, secure and convenient method of conducting online transactions. Whether it is business to business or business to consumer, Comtrust offers a comprehensive range of end-to-end services based on its advanced and reliable e-commerce infrastructure. The number of subscribers of Comtrust solution programme is currently about six to eight IT companies from the UAE, Qatar and Pakistan. Comtrust's Advanced Telecommunications Information Centre was officially opened in November last year.

In 1996 ETISALAT set up a specialist Card Manufacturing Unit. Known as EBTIKAR, the unit manufactures sophisticated, state-of-the-art cards to tap the exponentially growing card applications market. This is the only factory of its kind in the Middle East which has its own manufacturing and personalisation centre for a variety of cards - memory cards, microprocessors and magnetic cards for multimedia applications within diverse industries such as telecommunications (pay phones, GSM, Internet, WAP), social security, health etc.

ETISALAT is a majority shareholder in Thuraya Satellite Telecommunication Company, a mobile satellite telecommunication system that offers affordable, quality mobile phone services. Thuraya has signed over 60 agreements with service providers, serving more than 40 countries. Thuraya's network covers 106 countries in Europe, North and Central Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.

Subscribers of Thuraya, by the end of April, stood at 110,000, including 12,000 from Iraq. Emirates Cable TV and Multimedia - E-Vision is the latest subsidiary of ETISALAT and the only digital Cable TV service provider in the UAE, providing over 100 channels which include two executive channels, e-junior (kids channel) and e-xplor (documentary channel). With a variety of channels that offer programming in over 14 languages and the availability of premium packages from ART, Showtime and B4U, E-Vision is meeting the demand for a product that offers great customer service, superior technology and a variety of packages to suit every taste. In addition to pay-per-view channels, which allow subscribers to rent films and live shows without having to leave their houses.

ETISALAT also has investments in the Sudan Telecommunications Company, SUDATEL, the Zanzibar Telecommunications Company, ZANTEL and the Qatar Telecommunications Company, Q-Tel. Last year, ETISALAT pumped Dh1.144billion into its capital with the aim of expanding its station, optic fibre and GSM networks. This saw greater improvement to its smart network, SMS and Voice Mail services. ETISALAT has made available more than Dh3.1 billion to further improve the country's telecommunications infrastructure within the next two years. Big financial credits have also been provided to finance expansion work on the smart network, the EIM and the E-Vision.

ETISALAT has adopted successive strategic plans for the development of its UAE national human resources. This has led to the employment of UAE nationals, who occupy 70 per cent of ETISALAT's administrative jobs and 39 per cent of the total jobs at the Corporation, putting ETISALAT ahead of UAE institutions in terms of strict compliance with the country's Emiratisation policy and the national training and rehabilitation programme for the training of UAE nationals for gainful employment. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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