Mobile phone number 777-7777 fetches nearly Dh8 million at UAE auction

Sixty buyers fought to outbid each other for the memorable number and its accompanying VIP Etisalat package during a mobile phone auction held on Saturday.

Handout image of the Dh8 million phone number auction. Courtesy Emirates Auction Company
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ABU DHABI // The mobile phone number 050-777-7777 was auctioned off for Dh7.877777 million following a heated bidding war in Abu Dhabi and Dubai over the weekend.

“It’s a unique number first of all, secondly the money is going for charity,” said Emirates Auction managing director, Abdulla Al Mannaei, explaining the rare purchase.

Sixty buyers fought to outbid each other for the memorable number and its accompanying VIP Etisalat package during a mobile-phone auction held on Saturday by the Emirates Auction at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi and the Armani Hotel at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Bidding for the catchy number and its Diamond Plus package started at Dh437,000.

“We are not selling the mobile number, we are selling packages from Etisalat. Each package has a lot of benefits,” said Mr Al Mannaei. “This is a first time for the UAE.”

Despite the millions spent on the catchy contact digits, the unnamed buyer did not win ownership rights, as all mobile and landline numbers belong to the government and are regulated by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

The winning bidder merely bought the right to use the special number for the duration of a two-year contract. The unnamed winner will also enjoy the benefits of an attractive mobile-phone package that includes 22,500 free local minutes a month, 2,250 free international minutes a month, 100GB of data per month, 22,500 local text messages a month and 300 incoming roaming minutes free per month.

The purchase also came with a buyer’s beware warning issued by the TRA. Just days before the auction, the authority issued a statement saying that it “may withdraw from use any number that has been issued by a licensee”. It also cautioned that it “cannot guarantee that the prefix or the seven-digit number will not change in the future”.

Still, the warning was not enough to dissuade 700 prospective buyers from packing two halls to vie for one of 70 special numbers and VIP packages. The halls were connected via satellite television so that the two groups of bidders could watch each other compete for the numbers in real time.

Mr Al Mannaei said the auction was successful because buyers were attracted to the unique numbers on offer and because proceeds above the minimum asking price would support the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation and Etisalat’s CSR projects.

The auction raised Dh20 million. Mr Al Mannaei said the amount raised far exceeded the expectation of auctioneers.

“It exceeded a lot, especially when there is no ownership,” he said.

Top 10 numbers auctioned:

7777777 Dh7,877,777

7777770 Dh1,250,000

7777771 Dh900,000

7777776 Dh900,000

7777778 Dh900,000

7777775 Dh800,000

7770777 Dh620,000

7777788 Dh570,000

7770011 Dh18,000

7770088 Dh17,000