When it comes to building and creating brand intimacy, the telecom industry is challenging. Our research has shown telecom consumers are price- and offer-driven. Also, every small detail beyond basic functionality can dilute the customer experience, exponentially impacting the strength of a brand’s bond with customers. As our annual study continues to reveal, the greater the intimacy between brand and consumer, the less likely consumers are to switch. In a price and feature dominant industry, we wanted to examine the UAE telecom brands to see who performs best and why.


The UAE has embraced the digital revolution, building connectivity and accessibility to international digital networks and transitioning towards e-government services to support the growth of its economy. Known for its high per-capita GDP, and with an abundance of youth and expat consumers, the UAE’s telecom services have been at the forefront of the latest and best. The industry has been dominated since the inception of mobile by Etisalat, with competitor du acting as a foil since 2007.

With the rise of social media and increasing demand for mobile data, this local duopoly was challenged to create new offerings that are cheap, convenient and attractive for the growing demographic of the young and tech savvy. In 2017, Etisalat launched swyp, and Virgin Mobile entered the market building on du’s network. These newcomers claim to offer a new way forward for the mobile telecom industry in the UAE. But which brand, if any, has really captured the hearts of consumers and created an authentic emotional connection?


MBLM is an agency comprised of many digital natives, and the nature of our work demands that we stay connected constantly. We examined each of the four telecom brands’ prepaid services to find out if there really is a better mobile experience in UAE—and whether or not any of the brands could forge a more intimate relationship with us. To do this, we purchased products and services at each brand to experience first-hand how well they delivered on their promise and positioning.


Etisalat logo

Established: October 1976
Tagline: Together Matters

Du logo

Established: February 2007
Tagline: Add Life to Life

Virgin Mobile logo

Established: January 2017
Tagline: Mobile Made Simple

Swyp logo

Established: September 2017
Tagline: The New Mobile Experience


Throughout our testing, there were common threads among these services that other users in the UAE are likely to encounter.


VirginMobile App screenshots

Virgin Mobile managed to check all the boxes and had the most user-friendly app of the four brands. Many things can go wrong when making a mobile application, from deep sitemaps and infinite subsections to slow load times and website redirects. It’s essential to clearly define a digital strategy for a component that is going to be core to your users’ experience.


Service brands always struggle to get the formula right. During our review, we were met with inaction and unknowledgeable responses from all of the brands. Brands need to take a hard look at how they train service reps, and the guidelines and core brand principles they hold to heart.


Telecom Store Evolution

With three of the four brands offering the option to deliver our SIMs, convenience seems to be at the front door. It’s clear that delivery is the future: a quick way to activate services like mobile telecom subscriptions. Moreover, the arrival of the eSIM will place even more focus on digital registration experiences. Given the importance of online ordering, it is vital that brands perfect the process, avoiding complications as much as possible.


Virgin Mobile and swyp are Mobile Virtual Network Operators– independent operators dependent on du and Etisalat for network infrastructure. This allows both companies to concentrate their efforts on building stronger brands, while network infrastructure is managed by others. As the average customer becomes more global and data-hungry, brands that pair truly differentiated offerings (such as free roaming and uncapped data) with a strong essence, story and experience, will start to rise to the forefront.

The Full Notes

Dive into the full telecom field notes to find out which brand really had us talking.

Field notes thumbnail

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