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How to choose the right mobile and data plan in the UAE

Whether you’re new to the UAE or looking to switch network providers, finding the right carrier with the perfect plan can be tricky. Our guide will give you an overview of the mobile operators in the UAE and tips for picking the best plan for your needs.

 Mobile Operators in the UAE

Although the UAE’s mobile phone services landscape is not as competitive as some of the other countries, there are enough options here to make you think twice. 

Mobile services here are primarily provided by the big two: Etisalat and Du. The former is the oldest and leading mobile service provider in the region with over half of the total mobile phone service market. Du launched just over a decade ago and has seen meteoric growth thanks to their flexible plans and by-the-second billing system. 

Last year, du’s parent company launched a virtual network - more commonly known as mobile virtual network operator or MVNO - under the Virgin Mobile brand, giving mobile users a much needed third option. Although du technically owns Virgin Mobile, it is operated as a separate brand that uses du’s network infrastructure to deliver its service. 

Targeted towards the young and digital-savvy crowd, Virgin Mobile offers all of its services solely through the Virgin Mobile UAE app, wherein you can register for a SIM, choose your number, and have your SIM delivered to you anywhere in the UAE. The only catch here is that you need an active debit or credit card to subscribe to the service. 

Not to be outdone, Etisalat, too, launched its own youth-centric virtual network last year, under the brand name Swyp with one major caveat - you have to be between 15 and 29 years old to register for the service.

Swyp is a purely prepaid service that also uses a similar app-centric approach, allowing you to register for a SIM, manage your usage and recharge your account all from your smartphone. 


Both Etisalat and Du have vast coverage in the region, but you might find yourself dropping bars in certain areas. There are service coverage maps on both telcos’ websites but these don’t always show local dead zones. You’ll want to ask around or test coverage with a prepaid SIM around your home and work to make sure your phone works where you need it the most. 

Since Virgin Mobile and Swyp piggyback off of the big two, their coverage is only as good as the network they run on. So, if Du is spotty in your area then Virgin Mobile will equally be unreliable.

Ammara Rounaq is the Social Media manager at TechRadar Middle East.