Consumers want more choice

Within weeks, du will get access to areas of the market previously held exclusively by its rival Etisalat but the market still has a long way to go.

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Consumers say that du's price reduction for internet service is positive, but that the market still has a long way to go. Within weeks, du will get access to areas of the market previously held exclusively by its rival Etisalat. The Dubai-based upstart has already announced plans for cheaper promotions, which are expected to stimulate competition in the market.

Claire Humphreys, a 32-year-old British expatriate, said the price drops were encouraging but did not open up competition far enough. As a Dubai Marina resident, she is able to obtain internet service only through du. "It's good, but you still only have two options," she said. "It would be better if they increased competition for mobile phones by letting people keep their numbers and not have to choose between 050 or 056. Du offer good prices but I want my number."

Hassen Saleh, a Lebanese expatriate, agreed that although the markets were improving, customers still had very few options. Mr Saleh, a businessman, has had an Etisalat contract for more than three years. "The internet is very expensive in this country," he said. "I have Etisalat internet, but I hope I now get a choice, even if it is limited. Many live away from home so need to have internet in their homes, it's only right that you can choose."

On Thursday, du announced that starting in August, it will offer an eight-megabyte internet connection with TV and landline for Dh249 a month, down from Dh499. Etisalat's eLife bundle is currently Dh399 a month. But even these lower prices are far out of line with what is offered in other countries. In the UK, for example, TalkTalk offers a 24Mb broadband package with unlimited downloads for as little as £15 (Dh83) a month on an 18-month contract. A Virgin media package with unlimited weekend and UK landline calls, combined with up to 10Mb broadband speed, can cost around £13 (Dh73) a month.

Mohit Mulchandani, 17, an Indian student in Dubai, said that for people who make a lot of international calls, du's expansion was good news. "Calls to India cost more than Dh2 for one minute with Etisalat," he said. But with du, it's about Dh1 a minute. In India, everything is much cheaper but here there's only two companies."
munderwood@thenational.ae

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