UAE telecoms operator Etisalat, which saw $1.8bn moved over its network last year via money transfers, has sought regulatory approval to expand its financial services offerings in the Gulf region, Reuters has reported. "Remittances are a huge business opportunity," George Held, director of products and services at Etisalat, told the news service. "The cost base for telecoms operators is much different than for banks and exchange houses. We do not need bricks and mortar branches, so our costs are lower and we can pass on this saving and offer better exchange rates and transaction fees." Mobile money services allow customers to pay bills or make remittances using SMS text messages, often at a cheaper cost than through banks or money transfer firms.