Etisalat, which has been in business since 1976, is a state-owned telecom company with the largest and most comprehensive national coverage.
Du, launched in 2007, is also a government-owned business that targets the budget-conscious segment of the market with a number of discounts.
Both offer land line, pay-as-you-go and post-pay mobile plans along with other phone options for users.
SIM cards are available at any of the du or etisalat dealers in the UAE. For location listings, check their websites, www.etisalat.com and www.du.com.
The two companies offer similar pricing plans.
Presently, du is the money-saver's answer for mobile phones; the one-off registration fee is Dh 100 cheaper than etisalat's, and calls are charged per second, instead of etisalat's 30-second block charges. For browsing the internet on your phone, etisalat offers better packages. See our Personal Finance article on choosing the right mobile operator for you.
The two companies were previously limited in their pricing by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, however etisalat and du are on course to set their own prices for the first time. New regulations could be in effect by the end of the year, according to the TRA, which may create even cheaper deals for consumers.
How to get a sim card
Many residents don't wish to be tied to a contract and choose the pay-as-you-go option that is easy to set up with either etisalat or du.
Simply take your passport or UAE driving licence to one of the many company-branded and neighbourhood shops or supermarkets that sell sim cards – they are everywhere – and pick an available telephone number. The shop will take a photocopy of your identifcation and your account will be activated shortly afterwards.
Topping it up
Etisalat's pre-paid mobile system is known as Wasel and is easy to top up. Simply go into one of the many shops, garages or supermarkets that sell top-up scratch cards or receipts and ask for a certain amount of credit.
Dial 120 on your phone and recharge the phone using the number on the credit-slip or card provided. You will be instantly told the new balance on your phone.
Du's pay-as-you-go phones are topped up with 'Wow' cards. Again there are different valued cards available, ranging from Dh20 to Dh200, which are available in most retailers across the country.