Emirates Communications Corporation (Etisalat) will launch long-term evolution (LTE) services in the third quarter of this year.  It will initially cover hotspots in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al-Ain and Sharjah where there is high data usage.

The company picked China’s Huawei and France’s Alcatel-Lucent in February 2011 to deploy the fast-speed mobile broadband technology.

“Voice revenues are decreasing so we are focusing on mobile broadband services and are currently working on the infrastructure,” says Marwan Zawaydeh, Etisalat’s chief technology & information officer.

The operator is in the installation phase and has already begun trialling the technology, reaching speeds of up to 100 Megabits per second (Mbps).

“LTE is essential for customers to have better experience. It is cost-effective for us in the long term and better for capacity,” says Zawaydeh.

Mobile broadband users make up about 25 per cent of Etisalat’s customer base. Zawaydeh predicts higher subscriber numbers from 2012 when there will be greater usage of LTE.

“Etisalat heavily invests in the modernising and development of infrastructure in the UAE, as the total cost of building the fibre-optic network has reached AED6bn ($1.6bn), in addition to investments in an LTE network,” says Mohammed Omran, chairman of Etisalat.

Etisalat announced its first quarter results on 18 April. The group recorded revenues of AED8.04bn for the first quarter in 2011, growing by AED169m since the same period last year.  Net profits reached AED1.8bn with earnings per share at AED0.23. Etisalat invested in AED1.11bn of capital expenditure during the quarter and its net assets were AED41.3 billion at the end of March 2011.

After the failed takeover bid of Kuwait’s Zain, Omran says the company will continue to search for investment opportunities while waiting for new growth in the telecommunications sector.