du launches 'Elite' mobile package

The Elite Plan is the mobile providers' most significant marketing push in the past year.

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi - April 10th, 2009:  A man sits in front of a Du sign while he talks on his cell phone.  (Galen Clarke/The National) for stock *** Local Caption ***  GC04_04022009_telecom.jpg
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It was not the iPhone, the BlackBerry Storm or an unlimited mobile-internet package, but the du mobile network on Sunday launched a product it said would "redefine mobility". While far from being the life-changing package that du promised, it did bring a new service to the UAE: a combination of prepaid and monthly billed services on a single line. The system allows users to separate personal and professional calls, with one set going to a bill and the other being deducted from a prepaid account balance.

The Elite Plan, du's most significant marketing push in the past year, is a bundled package of calling, text messages and mobile internet access. It suggests that the operator, which has built a strong position among budget-conscious customers, aims to attract higher-spending users away from its rival, Etisalat. It will be promoted by an advertising campaign featuring four celebrities, including the Emirati cartoonist Mohammed Harib, the creator of the popular Freej television show, and Shahrukh Khan, one of the biggest names in Indian entertainment.

After the launch, Osman Sultan, du's chief executive, said the company remained in talks with Apple to bring the iPhone to its network. "The discussions are ongoing," Mr Sultan said. "We clearly said to them that we want to offer the iPhone to our customers." He declined to give a possible date for its release. Mr Sultan admitted the promise of a life-changing product might have been overstated for the launch, but said he believed the evolution of the mobile industry was worthy of such high words.

"The mobile broadband story will change the way we live," he said. "It is already changing the way we live. These are big concepts that change our lives; the rest is marketing." Mr Sultan also acknowledged the weaknesses of du's mobile internet offering, which is limited to a 200-megabyte monthly download and costs Dh245. The service needs "a transformation", he said. "It's coming. Believe me, it's coming. By the end of this year, a big concept that will really change things."

tgara@thenational.ae