Etisalat starts Egypt and Saudi roaming deal

Etisalat says it will give subscribers special roaming rates in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Etisalat has said subscribers would be given special roaming rates in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
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Etisalat has introduced a common roaming system between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the first step in its long-term strategy to unify its international mobile networks. The move comes as global telecom companies are looking for ways to leverage their presence in multiple countries to create new revenue streams and retain customers. Earlier in the year Mohamed Omran, the chairman of Etisalat, spoke of the company's increasing focus on finding synergies between its 16 national networks throughout the Middle East and Africa. "Extensive managerial resources and attention have been dedicated to leveraging the unique attributes of Etisalat's top three markets - Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt," Mr Omran said at a conference in May. Zain, the Kuwaiti mobile operator, has had great success with its One Network system, which unifies the company's operations in 15 countries into what is effectively a single network. Zain customers in Iraq, Bahrain and Jordan can move freely between those three networks, as well as those of 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, paying local call tariffs in each country

During the May conference Mr Omran had said that Etisalat would launch a "special service proposition" for mobile customers in its three biggest markets. Under the system launched yesterday Etisalat customers from the UAE will make local calls in Egypt and Saudi Arabia at a standard fixed rate. Previously, Etisalat customers from the UAE paid up to Dh12 per minute to make calls on their phones in Saudi Arabia, for example. They would also pay up to Dh5 per minute to receive calls. Under the new system a standard tariff of Dh1.4 per minute will be levied on outgoing calls made on Etisalat's international networks, and the incoming call charge will be scrapped entirely. In announcing the system yesterday, Essa al Haddad, the chief marketing officer of Etisalat, said it was "just the first phase of our roaming alliance offer and we would like to extend this eventually to all our customers across the various markets we operate in". The company, like other major telecommunications operators in the Arab world, faces increasing regulatory scrutiny into its roaming tariffs. At an April meeting of the Arab Regulators' Network (AREGNET) it was agreed that roaming charges should be harmonised across the Arab world, in a process likely to reduce fees by at least 36 per cent. Network operators, represented by the GSM Association, an industry body, argued at the meeting for self-regulation by the industry, a call rebuffed by Alan Horne, the director-general of Bahrain's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and chairman of AREGNET. "The Arab regulators, having considered the proposed self-regulatory principles presented by the mobile industry, believe that the industry has still some way to go," he said. The EU is also taking a tough stance on high roaming charges. Vivian Reading, the EU telecommunications commissioner, has threatened to intervene with new regulatory measures if network operators fail to cut roaming tariffs.