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Official iPhone launch in UAE unlikely anytime soon

Business Materials 20 October 2007 06:55

UAE consumers may not be able to purchase the officially-released iPhone, as the UAE regulator would bar Apple from establishing any exclusive network services within the UAE market.

This could be 'indefinite', Gulf News has learnt.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has said that it will not allow any company to establish an exclusive right to IPhone services with either of the two licensed telecom operators in the UAE.

A spokesperson for the TRA told Gulf News the authority was in talks with companies that are already empowered to sign exclusive deals for the iPhone.

"Since the other operator [du] is in action, we are careful to observe the major principle of fair competition in certain area, which includes iPhone service," he said. The spokesman would not confirm that the TRA was in talks with Apple directly and would only specify that the authority is in talks with 'iPhone' firms.

Apple's marketing strategy has been so far to only introduce the iPhone where the company has signed exclusive contracts with telecom providers.

The decision could mean that the iPhone would not be officially released in the UAE. Unauthorised iPhones that have been unlocked by third party software have been on sale in the UAE, but Apple has said that it will not support these phones in any way. Software updates to the phone may even permanently disable the phone.

Apple faces similar regulatory issues in France, where it requires telecoms to provide unlocked versions of phones they sell.

Magnus Nystedt, president of EmiratesMac, an Apple Users Group located in the UAE, said the chances of Apple releasing an unlocked iPhone are unlikely. "I would be very surprised if Apple released an unlocked iPhone in the next few years," he said, adding that such a release would kill the market for the exclusive networks, which are currently a major part of Apple's marketing strategy. ( Gulf )

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