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Etisalat sets aside $2.5b for development

Barcelona: Etisalat Group has set aside $2.5 billion to develop its telecommunications network, fibre optics, and broaden its 3G and 4G services to mobile phone users, Ahmad Julfar, CEO of the group, said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Mobile Network Congress, which is currently being held in Barcelona, Julfar told Gulf News that such developments are in line with the company’s expectations of having three to five times more customers in the years leading up to the Expo 2020.

“Etisalat has already started with the steps to meet the requirements of the Smart government, which the UAE is planning for. Among our priorities now is providing comprehensive service via mobile phones for all citizens and residents, so they can finish all their work from their phones,” Julfar said.

“This requires first installing and operating applications and programs that are technologically advanced. Secondly, it requires an expansion of the current network and making it strong enough to accommodate all the needs,” he added.

As for Etisalat’s investments, the CEO said international investments reached Dh40 billion, and the company is focusing on its busy markets such as Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Egypt.

“Among our expansion plans in the next few months is an investment plan with the Moroccan telecommunications company. We’ve already signed the deal worth $5.5 billion,” Julfar said, adding that the delays in starting work in Morocco are caused by the Moroccan company’s international investments in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Gabon.

With Dh14 billion worth of investments in the Saudi Arabian market, Etisalat is expected to invest even further there.

Julfar also said that Etisalat still depends on its profits from the local market, and that international investments usually take three years to start making profits.

“The company’s profit from the local market represents 70 per cent of the company’s total profits. This means that our profits from international markets constitute 30 per cent of annual profit,” he said.

Commenting on investments in Libya, Julfar said Etisalat has stopped its investment attempts there for various reasons, which include a lack of a unified political system, and the uncertainty in plans to develop telecommunications infrastructure.

Etisalat had recently announced figures showing that it reached 150 million consumers by the end of January 2014 in its 15 international markets.