Etisalat scraps renewal charge for prepaid mobiles

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Etisalat has announced that it is scrapping the renewal charge for prepaid mobile subscriptions, in the latest move in the UAE's increasingly competitive telecoms sector.

For many expats living in the UAE, the charge has been something of an annoyance. That's because - in some markets, at least - prepaid mobile lines are available for free, and do not attract charges for annual renewal.

And so many will welcome Etisalat's 'free lifetime validity' on all new and existing Wasel connections.

To keep their Wasel connections active, customers "need only make one charged call or send an SMS from their Wasel accounts within three months," the company said in a statement.

Rival operator du already has 'lifetime validity' on its Pay as you Go subscription. However, it is only applicable to customers who recharge 20 times within four months, or spend Dh500 of phone credit in a year. Those who do not meet that criteria must pay Dh55 a year to renew.

And so Etisalat's latest offer gives it a slight edge on its competitor in terms of prepaid subscribers - although it's not inconceivable that du will respond with a similar offer.

While a charge of Dh55 a year may not seem like a big deal, Etisalat's 'lifetime validity' offer is a sign of increasing competition in the UAE's telecommunications space.

For the UAE's incumbent operator has been losing thousands of subscribers to rival du.

In the first three months of this year, du added 272,000 active mobile subscribers, while Etisalat said it lost 334,000 subscribers during the same period.