Etisalat and du urged to reduce cost of calls abroad

The cost of calling abroad is too high, says a senior official from the telecoms regulator.

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ABU DHABI // The cost of calling abroad is too high, a senior official from the telecoms regulator said yesterday.

The operators Etisalat and du must address the situation, said Fintan Healy, the executive director of regulatory affairs at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). "This is the area that has to be worked on. Consumers are telling us these services are too expensive," he said.

Mr Healy was speaking as the TRA announced the results of a survey of 2,133 phone users. It found that 48 per cent were unhappy with the cost of calls from their mobile phone, and 42 per cent were dissatisfied with the rates from their fixed landline.

Du charges customers by the second, and Etisalat by the minute. Rates from both providers differ depending on whether the call is made from a fixed line or a mobile.

Tariffs range from about Dh1.4 a minute to Dh2.4 for some of the most popular destinations, such as India. The subcontinent is by far the most popular international calling destination from both landlines and mobiles, with India top, followed by Pakistan, then the UK and Saudi Arabia.

Both operators, which have a duopoly on the telecoms market, have cut international calling rates in the past year. The regulator must approve any price change by du and Etisalat.

The survey also found that, to save money, 17 per cent of landline users and 26 per cent of mobile phone users asked friends, relatives and business contacts in other countries to call them rather than make the call themselves.

Phone companies worldwide face increasing competition on international calls from Voice over Internet providers such as Skype, which has about 560 million subscribers.

The Skype website is blocked in the UAE, but the regulator has had discussions with the company to see if the service could be established here. Such a move is "under constant review", Mr Healy said, but he gave no indication of when a decision might be reached.

Mobile penetration in the UAE is already high: more than 99 per cent of people interviewed said they owned a mobile phone. The survey also found that 63 per cent of households have an internet connection, of which 88 per cent are broadband.

"This is very encouraging to see as broadband is considered a way forward in international standards," Mr Healy said.