Etisalat and du move to meet customers' need for online speed

Leading internet companies including Google and Yahoo to host their data on Etisalat's servers.

Internet video and other bandwidth-hungry services are expected to speed up noticeably after an agreement for Etisalat to host data on behalf of companies including Google and Yahoo on its servers.

Etisalat will mirror digital content from internet companies that want to store content locally so users can surf the web faster and avoid network cuts, said Ali al Amiri, the Etisalat executive vice president in charge of the operator's carrier and wholesale department.

"Everything depends on content now. For the content, you have to go all the way to the US and Europe, but as part of our effort we are making content locally available," Mr al Amiri said.

"We have major content providers. We have brought them into the UAE so that their content is readily available."

Etisalat had partnered with the US companies Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Akamai, a manager of online content, Mr al Amiri said.

The content will be hosted in Etisalat's "smart hub", a new service that will merge its portfolio of international network services into a single platform. Its functions will include providing additional broadband capacity to international operators for their own network purposes.

Most of the GCC's internet providers have already signed up to Etisalat's smart hub service, which is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year, Mr al Amiri said.

"Operators that connect to [Etisalat] know that we have a robust system, a system where we have multiple links connected everywhere," he said.

"There may be other companies that offer single links, but in a time of failure, that link can go down. But if they connect to [Etisalat], we have robustness and multiple cables going east and west."

The UAE's second telecommunications operator, du, is also in talks with a number of internet companies to enter an arrangement similar to Etisalat's, providing faster online service for customers.

It is a strategy that is part of the operator's plans to provide its customers with internet speeds up to 100 megabits per second, more than four times the current speed.

"If you're a content provider … most of your content will be in the UAE itself. There'll be no need to go outside the UAE's boundaries to get the service for you," said Hatem Bamatraf, the senior vice president for network development at du.

"We don't have any agreement with [Akamai] but we are working in that specific area of caching and we will announce something very soon. It's a win-win for both the content provider and us as well."