As we shall see, setting up your Internet and cable TV in Dubai is a bit like going to McDonalds for just a cheeseburger and small fries. It might have been exactly what you wanted when you came in, but the chances are quite high that you’ll leave with a Quarter Pounder Combo Deal, upsized with large fries and a liter or more of Coke to wash it all down.
But first you need…
…A house or apartment to run the cables to. You might have to wait a few weeks until you have a lease on what is going to be your home base for the next twelve or twenty four months.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have Internet pretty much upon landing at Dubai International Airport (DXB) or Dubai World Central International Airport (DWC). You can get a Visitor Line Pack as soon as you arrive, for just AED100 (that’s slightly less than $US27.50) which will have your phone or tablet up and running as soon as you install the SIM that comes with the pack.
The link above tells you what you get, how much the various services cost, how to recharge, and how long it’s good for. The Visitor Line Pack is a simple and convenient way to meet your immediate Internet connectivity needs, but compared with packages that you will certainly want to upgrade to, it’s also a relatively expensive way of accessing the net long term.
Etisalat and Du
Originally, there was only Etisalat, but Du was created to compete in 2006. To be honest, there isn’t a huge deal of difference between them, but it’s worth spending time reading the various packages that they offer via their websites, because, like Volkswagen and Audi, even though the basic componentry is the same under the hood, there are enough superficial differences to make some folks choose one over the other.
If it’s an all-in-one cable TV, Internet, and landline package you want, both companies are ready and willing to meet your needs.
What about the other providers?
There aren’t any. This may change, but for now, at time of writing, it’s either Etisalat or Du. Even then, you don’t have entirely free choice: some areas are not served by Du, so that once you have a permanent place of residence, and have chosen the package that suits you best, you might just find that no matter how much they’d like your business, Du just can’t provide because of the locality.
So, you just have to choose the Etisalat package that most closely replicates the Du package you’d decided upon.
Choices, choices, choices, so much choice!
How much, how fast, how many channels, what’s on them, do I need a landline? And so it goes…
Think hard about the landline – I know plenty of people who have given up on the landline altogether and just use their mobiles for everything. Now, the packages that both Etisalat and Du will push hardest are the all-in-ones: internet, cable-TV, mobile, and landline.
That’s where my “meal deal” metaphor at the beginning comes from. If you don’t want it and don’t need it, then you don’t have to have it, but that’s the one you will see to the fore when you look for what’s on offer on both Etisalat and Du’s webpages outlining the various combo packages available.
Think hard about how much and what kind of television you’re really likely to be watching.
How much speed do you need? The various e-Life deals offered by Etisalat, for example, come with different (theoretical) maximum download speeds, but the costs escalate the higher the speed you opt for. Do you really need a (theoretical) 500Mbs (megabits per second) download speed?
In practice, around 30Mbs is perfectly adequate for streamed content, but of course, you’re unlikely to consistently get that, so to be sure, you could opt for 50Mbs to have a safety margin.
As a rule of thumb then, choose what you want by studying the sites well in advance, and remember that you can always add and upgrade in the future. It’s easier to add than to subtract.
So how do I go about it?
You really need to go to one of the Etisalat or Du sales points: they’re everywhere, most especially in the shopping malls, but you can easily locate the closest one via the websites.
Sit down with a sales representative and go over what you want and where you want it. Remember that you will probably be subjected to some fast sales-talk to get you to supersize/upgrade, but stand your ground, or maybe sit-tight.
You will need some proof of identity – normally nothing trumps the Emirates ID Card, but if you are newly arrived, you probably won’t have yours yet, even if you have applied.
Next best is your passport, and if you want to be really helpful, have a couple of copies of the relevant pages as well – the one with your photo and the one with your UAE Residence Visa – assuming that you have it in your passport at this stage.
Then fill in all the relevant sections of the Application for Services form: Etisalat provides copies of all their various application forms on their website for you to peruse in advance.
Du’s site is generally very easy to follow and navigate, but doesn’t seem to have a similar facility. Checking the Support/Becoming Our Customer link returned a “page not found” error, but maybe this will be rectified soon. I don’t really imagine that Du’s Application form will differ greatly from Etisalat’s.
OK – Paperwork done, now what?
This link pretty much summarizes what I have told you above, but doesn’t really go into the detail of what happens once you have signed on the line, paid your fees, and left the Etisalat or Du office.
In almost all cases, you have to wait a few days before a technician from either Etisalat or Du calls at your house or apartment to activate the Ethernet ports inside your living space.
Then it’s just a case of connecting your router (or routers), following a few simple instructions, and you’re connected. If you’re not confident you can do this yourself, the technician will do it for you.
A family member who has more experience of these processes than I do recommends that you get the technician to activate as many ports as possible in the house. Two is usually the default, but you might find that to get really good coverage inside some of the quite large villas and apartments in Dubai, you need to install extra routers or signal boosters.
They’ll always work better if connected directly to activated Ethernet ports.