Etihad Etisalat


Etisalat is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world and the largest operator in the Arab world headquartered in the UAE (as per FT500 March 31, 2008).

Etisalat operates in 16 countries across Asia, the Middle East and Africa, servicing over 64m customers out of a total population that exceeds 800m people.

In 2007, Etisalat reported annual Net Revenues of US $5,815million and Net Profits of US$1,831million. (As at July 14 2008, Etisalat reported Net Revenues of US$ 3,390m and Net Profits of US$ 1,394m).

It offers a variety of hi-tech complementary services to the telecommunications industry including managerial and technical training , SIM card manufacturing, payment solutions, clearing house services, peering, voice and data transit, and submarine and land cable services.

Etisalat is also the major internet hub in the Middle East, responsible for internet, voice, mobile broadband, roaming and corporate data services. It is the largest carrier of international voice traffic in the Middle East and Africa and the 12th largest voice carrier in the world. It is the only comprehensive provider of carrier and wholesale services in the region. Etisalat has 510 roaming agreements connecting 186 countries enabling Blackberry, 3G and voice roaming. It also has Points of Presence (PoP) in New York, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris and Singapore providing a truly global reach.

Etisalat is a major investor in Thuraya, one of the world’s leading satellite geo-mobile communication systems providing coverage across two thirds of the planet’s surface.

On June 4th 2004, the Etisalat network got hacked by an 18 years old Iranian student, Amir Mohammad Siahpolo, who was studying IT at the University of Wollongong in Dubai. He penetrated Etisalat's main server. Although no data was removed or changed, he was arrested by police 2 days later. At the time of his arrest, he said "I just wanted to reach the questions of my exam that were available on the website of my university." He volunteered to treat the network problem, and the offer was accepted.

Etisalat International Investments

Etisalat International is the business unit of Etisalat that operates outside the UAE and manages the corporation's stakes in telecommunications carriers in Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, the Ivory Coast, Egypt, Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Saudi Arabia - Mobily

One of Etisalat's first international investments was the bid to become the second mobile services operator in Saudi Arabia. Etihad Etisalat, a consortium led by Etisalat, has won the 2G GSM license by offering USD 3.25 billion. Currently operating under the brand name Mobily, Etihad Etisalat offers Saudi Arabia subscribers conventional and 3.5G mobile telephony services, and has floated shares on the Saudi stock market.

Pakistan - PTCL

Among the acquisitions of Etisalat in 2005 was a 26% management stake in Pakistan Telecommunications (PCTL) that was put on sale by the government of Pakistan as part of a large privatization initiative. In order to outbid competitors (which included Singapore Telecom and China Mobile), Etisalat offered USD 2.56 billion for the stake. According to some analysts, Etisalat has overpaid, as the bid went far beyond the estimated USD 2 billion value of the package.

Egypt - Etisalat

In July 2006, a consortium led by Etisalat has been granted the rights to develop Egypt's third mobile network, with a winning bid of 16.7 billion Egyptian pounds (2.29 billion euro). The new venture, Etisalat Egypt, will compete with existing service providers Vodafone and Mobinil. On September 12, 2006, it was announced that the network will be built by Ericsson of Sweden, and Huawei of China, at a cost of approximately USD $1.2 billion.

Etisalat was presented with the ‘Best New Entrant’ award for its Egyptian operations at the Comms MEA Awards ceremony in 2007. Etisalat was selected by a panel of experts from KPMG, the Arab Advisors Group and Oliver Wyman, Dubai.

Sudan - Canar

Etisalat has a 4% stake in SudatelSudatel, which provides mobile, fixed and Internet services in Sudan. Also in Sudan, Etisalat is one of 10 founders of Canar TelecomCanar Telecom, a fixed-line operator. In September 2007, Etisalat increased its shares in Canar, from 37% to 82% for AED584.17 million (USD159 million).

Canar, which was launched on Nov 27, 2005 uses Next Generation Network (NGN) and Wireless Loop (WLL), its products and services include voice, data, internet and multi media services. Canar is in the forefront of operators being one of the few to deploy NGN as the base of the network and is one of the first to do so in Africa.

Nigeria - Etisalat

Etisalat signed an agreement to acquire 40% of and manage Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services, Nigeria’s fifth GSM operator.

Tanzania - Zantel

In January 1999, Etisalat acquired a stake in Zanzibar Telecom, one of Tanzania’s mobile operators, for AED8.8 million (USD2.4 million) and increased the stake by 17% in July 2007.

  • ZPesa - Mobile Banking

ZPesa is the mobile banking service enables its customers to send and receive money throughout the country using their mobile phones.

ZPesa aims at providing secure, affordable and convenient money transfer solutions and banking services to the unbanked and underbanked segments of the market.

Zantel is the first mobile phone company in the country to provide mobile banking.

The service is designed so that it can provide banking services for those who don’t have access to traditional banking facilities. Zpesa will enable customers to send, receive and save money simply by using their mobile phones.

To receive money one will simply have to go to any ZPesa agent with his phone and receive hard cash.Apart from sending and receiving money, the service will enable people to securely save in their virtual ZPesa accounts and avoid the risk of losing their money. “For example if you are traveling upcountry and you don’t want to carry cash, you can just buy your e-units and collect your money when you get to your destination.

West Africa - Atlantique Telecom/Moov

In Africa, Etisalat acquired 50% of Atlantique Telecom’s shares. Based in the Ivory Coast, AT owns mobile operators in Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo, Niger, Central African Republic, Gabon and Ivory Coast. In 2007, Etisalat increased its shares in AT to 70% and again in May 2008, to 82%. AT group subscribers totaled 2.9 million at the end of 2007, which is a 107% increase from the previous year.

  • Ivory Coast: Moov, is currently Ivory Coast's third-largest cell-phone operator with some 1.5 million customers.

In 2008, Moov Ivory Coast launched the first nationwide cell-phone coverage on using Thuraya satellite phone technology.

It is the first time that such a service has been offered in sub-Saharan Africa, outside South Africa.

They expressed hope the expanded coverage of the satellite service would help boost Moov to the No. 1 spot in Ivory Coast, overtaking France Telecom unit Orange

Moov executives said the price of a call on the satellite service would be around 190 CFA francs a minute to the Moov network and 290 francs a minute to another domestic network. Satellite phone calls would typically cost 1,000 CFA francs a minute, they said.

  • Benin: On 24th October 2007 the government of Benin has reassigned Telecel’s operating license to Etisalat.

In February 2008, His Excellency Dr. Boni Yayi, President of Benin, honoured Etisalat chairman, Mohammad Hassan Omran during a ceremony to celebrate Etisalat’s efforts in developing and promoting the telecommunications sector in Benin. Etisalat operates in Benin under the Moov brand.

Indonesia - Exceldomindo

Etisalat’s first acquisition in the Far East was in December 2007 with a 15.97% stake in the Indonesia-based PT Excelcomindo Pratama, for AED1.6 billion (USD438 million). PT, which is one of Indonesia’s mobile operators, had 15 million mobile subscribers at the time of acquisition.

  • History

PT Excelcomindo Pratama Tbk.(“XL” or the “Company”) was established on 6 October 1989 under the name of PT Grahametropolitan Lestari with its main business being in trading and general services.

XL started its commercial operations on 8 October 1996, by providing cellular mobile telephony services using the GSM 900 technology. Later, XL was also awarded the Cellular Mobile Network License for DCS 1800, and the Closed Regular Network License, as well as licenses for Internet and Service Provider (ISP) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). In 2006, XL obtained 3G Cellular Mobile Network License and started to launch commercially in September 2006.

Until now, XL has built more than 13.000 Base Transceiver Station (BTS) towers all around Indonesia to serve more than 22 million customers, and XL is committed to continously strengthen its quality and coverage in the future, in order to serve customers communication needs anytime, anywhere.

By the end of first quarter of 2007, more than 156 XL Centers are available throughout Indonesia, supported by the Contact Center services who are ready at 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In 2006, XL obtained the 3G license and then launched innovative 3G-based services. Not just that, XL is also launched Video Contact Center, a 3G-based technology customer support.

Afghanistan - Etisalat

Etisalat Afghanistan is a newly established GSM operator in Afghanistan. Etisalat Afghanistan is 100% owned by Etisalat U.A.E. Etisalat UAE.

Etisalat entered Afghanistan, when it won the license to become the fourth GSM operator in May 2006 for AED147.3 million (USD40.1million). The company began operations in August 2007.

  • Training

Etisalat Afghanistan is using training facilities in the UAE, Pakistan and China.

  • CSR

Etisalat Afghanistan has contributed $8,000 to the Ministry of Communications as part of a donation to the Ministry of Education to purchase computers and other ICT equipment for a much needed students in Afghanistan.

  • 786

Etisalat operates under the '786' prefix in Afghanistan. "786" is the total value of the letters of "Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim". In Arabic there are two methods of arranging letters. One method is the most common method known as the alphabetical method. Here we begin with Alif, ba, ta, tha etc. The other method is known as the Abjad method or ordinal method. In this method each letter has an arithmetic value assigned to it from one to one thousand. The letters are arranged in the following order: Abjad, Hawwaz, Hutti, Kalaman, Sa'fas, Qarshat, Sakhaz, Zazagh. This arrangement was done, most probably in the 3rd century of Hijrah during the 'Abbasid period, following other Semitic languages such as Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldean etc.

If you take the numeric values of all the letters of the Basmalah, according to the Abjad order, the total will be 786. In the Indian subcontinent the Abjad numerals became quite popular. Some people, mostly in India and Pakistan, use 786 as a substitute for Bismillah. They write this number to avoid writing the name of Allah or the Qur'anic ayah on ordinary papers. This tradition is not from the time of the Prophet -peace be upon him- or his Sahabah. It developed much later, perhaps during the later 'Abbasid period. We do not know of any reputable Imams or Jurists who used this number instead of the Bismillah.

Internet Services

Etisalat today has 1.02m Internet subscribers . Etisalat has been recognized by Windows Middle East, an ITP publication, as Best Internet Service Provider (ISP) of the year 2007. The winners were voted for by readers of the magazine from around the Middle East, and identified companies and operators in the telecommunications and IT industry from around the region.

To home users Etisalat currently offers:

  • Internet Roaming - Traveller Access: Internet Roaming allows travellers to access the Internet through Dial up or Wi-Fi connection, wherever they are located
  • International Dial-in - Dial from Abroad
  • Dial Up: Dial-Up provides you with a basic method of accessing the Internet and enables you to browse the net and use your emails with light attachments.
  • 3.5G Data Card - (Model E620): Reach high-speed internet access on your laptop up to 1.8 Mbit/s.
  • Al Shamil - Broadband Internet for Home: Al Shamil is a broadband Internet service for home, it will accelerate your surfing experience.
  • 3.5G Router - The 3.5G Router is an HSDPA 3G wireless gateway for family and small & medium business. With it, you can surf the Internet up to 7.2 Mbit/s and access the Internet in wireless mode.
  • Data USB Modem - Super Speed Connectivity
  • Prepaid Internet - Access the Internet without subscription by just using Etisalat's BLUE prepaid scratch cards
  • Dial 'N' Surf - Surf Without Subscription: Dial 'N' Surf is ideal for visitors to the UAE who wish to use the Internet.

Etisalat also operates iZone, a system of Wi-Fi hotspots in central locations, such as shopping malls, restaurants, and sheesha cafes. iZone can be utilized by either purchasing prepaid cards, which offers access rates of AED 15/hour (about USD 4.5/hour), or if one holds an existing account with the operator, paying AED 3/hour (dial-up account holders), or AED 6/hour (broadband account holders).

Dial-up and ISDN Internet access services are billed by the hour, whereas the Domestic/Residential Cable and DSL connections have a fixed monthly rate depending on speed. Other Internet links, aimed at business users, have traffic utilization plans and relatively high rates when exceeding the allocated bandwidth quota. This has caused bad publicity for Etisalat and is a major source of criticism.

Business Units

The Emirates Telecommunications Corporation incorporated several semi-independent business units, each focused on the provisioning of a different type of service.

These are divided underneath Etisalat's management structure with eight non-core service companies falling under the stewardship of Etisalat Services.These are: E-Marine, Ebtikar, E-Special Projects, E-Real Estate, E-Facilities Management, Directory Enquiries, EDCH and the Etisalat Academy.

Under the management of Etisalat UAE comes Global Carrier & Wholesale Services, E-Vision and Enterprise Solutions (formerly E-Company).

As of 2008, Etisalat is undergoing restructuring that will see only three main business units operating - Etisalat, Etisalat Services and Etisalat International. As part of the program, the telecom has launched a re-branding campaign, releasing a new corporate logo and identity in May 2006.

Internet Censorship

Etisalat implements Internet content filtering, denying user access to websites that is banned in the United Emirates. Instead of the sought website users receive a page stating that access to the content is denied due to its nature contravening "the religious, cultural, political, and moral values of the United Arab Emirates."

The type of content that is restricted by Etisalat includes:

The use of content filtering has been mandated by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the United Arab Emirates, which is the telecoms regulatory body in the country. Under TRA orders etisalat also blocks Voice over IP service providers, such as VoIP. Skype is one such service blocked by Etisalat. Many see this action as a move to protect the revenue streams of the telecommunications industry, as it is a main contributor to the UAE's Federal budget.

There are claims that Etisalat breaks the rules of net neutrality by throttling peer-to-peer, gaming and other types of network traffic in order to reduce the load on its oversubscribed international links. The effect of this interference is most noticeable during weekends or periods of high network use.

The overall efficiency of the country-wide content filtering is unclear, as many of the technologically savvy users have discovered tools and methods to bypass the content filter.

The TRA ordered etisalat/du to unblock over 1000 websites.


Etisalat has been criticized for many reason over the past years. Some of the issues include:

  • Above average telephone charges, especially in the case of international calls (although this, as of recently, can be attributed to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority which prohibits price-wars between the UAE's telephone companies) although they have special offers that compensate for the not so high-price calls.
  • Excessive delay in paying for PTCL, Pakistan Telecommunication Company which it bought. It got its contract renegotiated after the sale took place, which has been heavily criticized within the country.
  • Proxy blocks websites usually through an automated system which is prone to mistakes; though, the company doesn't take long time to respond to questions and inquiries about the blocked websites. They also block some YouTube videos and user pages.
  • The nature of the routing Etisalat uses means many users go through a single IP address when accessing the internet, in cases of vandalism, this means many users can be banned due to a single user's activities
  • Blocking all Voice Over IP (VoIP) communication which allows users cheaper international calls, such as Skype and Yahoo! Voice.
  • Very poor customer service and the absence of any customer care ethics.

See also

External links

  • (Official portal of Etisalat UAE)
  • (Etisalat Mail)
  • (Etisalat Egypt)
  • (Mobily - Etisalat in KSA)
  • (Etisalat Afghanistan)
  • (Canar - Etisalat in Sudan)
  • (Etisalat Cable TV)
  • (Etisalat’s entertainment portal)
  • (Atlantique Telecom's brand in West Africa)
  • (Software Arm of Etisalat UAE)
  • (Etisalat Nigeria)


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