SAMENA Telecommunications Council's Beyond Connectivity (BYC) was held in Muscat, Oman, on March 16th, attended by more than 180 participants from around the GCC region. Organized with the primary purpose of highlighting sustainability challenges and to help progress toward building regional digital economy, digital services, regional digital transformation, and understanding the socio-economic value of the cross-border communications, the Beyond Connectivity conference provided an open platform for a healthy dialogue on sensitive industry matters.
Beyond Connectivity was Diamond-sponsored by Omantel and Platinum-sponsored by Etisalat. Omantel is the Sultanate of Oman's most trusted telecommunications services brand, while Etisalat has been recognized as the most valuable brand portfolio in the Middle East.
Successfully executed under the theme "Building Corridors in Digital Development to Fulfill National Commitment”, Beyond Connectivity reiterated the need to build corridors of communication, innovation, understanding, and digital enablement. As was stated by Beyond Connectivity's Chief Guest, HE Said Bin Hamdoon Al Harthy, Under-Secretary for Ports and Maritimes Affairs, Ministry of Transport & Communications, the region cannot afford to ignore what is happening in digital development. TRA's Executive President and Guest of Honor for BYC, HE Dr Hamed Salim Al Rawahi, stated that policy-makers and regulators have important tasks ahead of them, and that given the digital development trends, licensing and the overall regulatory frameworks are evolving, keeping industry stakeholders' priorities in mind.
Omantel CEO, Sheikh Talal Said Marhoon Al Mamari, recognized that, as a part of the industry's transformational phase, telecom operators and technology providers are trying to find their way; a necessity which resonates with the need to create a sustainable digital ecosystem. Acknowledging also that SAMENA Council has made it possible for operators and policy-makers to gain clearer picture through the verbalization and alignment of priorities, Sheikh Talal emphasized the need to paint the true picture of where the industry has reached and where it needs to go. Etisalat International CEO, Mr. Hatem Dowidar, shared his perspective on the soul-searching process, which is happening within the telecom operator community, and how critical it has become for operators and governments to cooperate in better ways.
Consisting of five discussion-packed panels, Beyond Connectivity's speakers and moderators delved into addressing sustainability and competition related challenges faced by the industry, so that innovation and optimism continue to prevail within the industry; addressing the taxation and industry fees challenge and arriving at optimized levels in financial obligations for operators and other industry players, so that socio-economic and long-term benefits are enhanced; understanding regional transformational challenges, including regulatory frameworks, which should be functionality-bases, dynamic, and in line with current market realities; and understanding the need to conduct big analysis and define new rules that could facilitate converting data exchanged between countries into an economic and social value, befitting the regional economies and positively impacting the lives of the citizens.
"The regional communications industry is in the process of coming together and overcoming all forms of challenges through dialogue and discussion", stated Bocar BA, CEO of SAMENA Council. "There is just no other way for us to address the complexities that we face as stakeholders and all efforts do need to be exerted into understanding the core realities of our evolving ICT industry, and of those industries that are directly impacted by it. I am personally very pleased by the stakeholder confidence expressed in support of SAMENA Council during Beyond Connectivity and the outcomes of the discussion, which have defined areas for us to do follow-up work on. We feel honored that industry stakeholders have chosen to entrust SAMENA Council to help build important but equally challenging corridors, and to assist the industry in obtaining clarity on sensitive industry matters, such as taxation, which cannot be addressed unilaterally."
Beyond Connectivity witnessed the participation of Oman's government sector leadership, alongside a number of eminent national personalities, including CEO of Oman Broadband Mr. Said Al-Mandhari, as well as regional and international industry professionals, active within the region on multiple fronts. Speakers and moderators of Beyond Connectivity included Mr. Andrea Faggiano - ADL, Dr. Kamal Shehadi - Etisalat International, Mr. Adel Darwish - TRA Bahrain, Mr. Salim Bader Salim Al Mazrui - Omantel, Mr. Pankaj Asthaana - MasterCard, Chafic Chaya - RIPE NCC, Dr. Saoud Al Shoaili - Oman Ministry of Transport & Communications, Eng. Zyad Alkhwaiter - STC, Dr. Ibrahim H. Nasser - Orange Jordan, Mr. Sudhakar Ippatappu - Omantel, Mr. Riyadh Derouiche - AT Kearney, Mr. Nour Al Atassi - Syniverse, Mr. Alex Bennette - FRiENDi, Mr. Francisco Salcedo - Etisalat, Mr. Hisham Ibrahim - RIPE NCC, Mr. Jawad Abbassi - GSMA, Mr. Erik Almqvist - Goetzpartners, Mr. Jose Valles - du, Mr. Fadi Nasser - Omantel, Mr. Brahim Ghribi - Nokia, Eng. Khalid Al Farkh - ILA Group, Mr. Mohammed Al Ta'ani - TRA Oman, Mr. Juma Nasser Al Naabi - Omantel, Mr. Samer Bazyan - Yahsat, and Mr. Roberto Ercole, Ms. Imme Philbeck, and Mr. Izhar Ahmad - SAMENA Council.
SAMENA Council extends a warm thank-you to all the participants of Beyond Connectivity, to Omantel and Etisalat as the sponsors, and to Oman Ministry of Transport & Communications and TRA Oman for honorable presences and for encouraging openness in stakeholder dialogue.