SAMENA Council took part in the recently held GSMA Mobile 360 MENA conference in Dubai, UAE. Director of Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Mr. Roberto Ercole, moderated the regulatory modernisation policy keynote panel at the regional conference, voiced important industry issues, and highlighted the importance of working closely with regulatory authorities and providing industry players with incentives that are aligned with the modern communications era.
The panel, which included included Dr. Kamal Shehadi, CRO at Etisalat International, Mr. Zyad Alkhwaiter, GM Regulatory Affairs at STC, and Mr. Sam Blatteis, CEO MENA Catalysts and formerly Head of Public Policy at Google, addressed the key question of how regulators can ensure continued growth of investment in 3G, 4G, and catalyze future investment in 5G. During the discussion, a concern was also raised that some aspects of the current regulatory regime in some markets may not lead to best outcomes for consumers and for regional socio-economic growth. Two key issues were identified: the need for much more harmonised spectrum to allow 5G to flourish, and the need for reducing the difference in regulatory approaches for OTTPs and telecom operators in order to create a more level-playing field. It was also noted that a harmonised protection and security framework is essential to allow 5G services to be delivered in the most cost-effective manner. This includes, for instance, how network equipment can be shared among an operator’s subsidiary networks in different countries. The panel then touched upon another critical dimension of modern digital communication: the free flow of data across national boundaries.
Mr. Ercole summed up the discussion saying “Mobile network operators are commercial organisations and will only invest substantial sums needed to complete 4G and begin 5G if there is a plausible and well-supported business case. Some currently used regulatory models were developed in a different era, when telecom operators were state-run organisations and had certain conditions imposed to reflect that ownership. As some of those conditions now cause substantial revenue loss for operators in favour of OTTs, if allowed to continue, they will undermine the business case for future investment and may also delay 5G deployment."
The Mobile 360 debate also discussed the importance of ensuring that operators have enough harmonised spectrum to deliver on full potential of 5G digital services. Existing auction mechanisms and processes were identified as a potential impediment, since some can be designed as short-term revenue-raising exercises, and can drive up the underlying cost of mobile data. For 5G to succeed, it will need to be able to offer a lower cost per bit to consumers.
Particularly, with regard to spectrum, SAMENA Council and it’s members have been active in trying to achieve the international harmonisation of 5G bands with regulators via participation in the Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG). Mr. Ercole has presented detailed position papers on the bands Arab mobile operators believe are vital for providing much-needed accelerated support to timely and successful development of 5G in the region. SAMENA Council is working closely with its members and regional regulators in the run up to the next global spectrum harmonisation conference in 2019.
SAMENA Council has continued to voice its concerns and views on all three of these requirements for the industry to continue its path toward sustainable development and innovation; namely, creating a level-playing field for OTTs and operators, addressing the issue of creating policies that are long-term economics driven as opposed to short-term revenue-generation for governments, and accelerating spectrum harmonization efforts through collaboration among operators, regulators, and technology providers. SAMENA Council has recently also advocated the need for fulfilling the industry's needs and building public-private sector co-operation to better utilize ICTs during ITU Council Working Group on Internet's last meeting in Geneva and during the 2017 World Telecommunication Development Conference's recently held Private-Sector Roundtable in Argentina, with several Member States in attendance.
About SAMENA Telecommunications Council
SAMENA Telecommunications Council is South Asia - Middle East - North Africa (SAMENA) region’s premier industry association of telecom operators and service providers. SAMENA Council voices network operators’ issues and needs to regulators, policymakers, and international institutions. The largest regional telecom groups, including Saudi Telecom, Etisalat, Batelco, Ooredoo, Viva Kuwait, Orange Jordan, Turk Telekom, Zain, Omantel, among other leading operators and technology companies, are a part of the Council’s membership. SAMENA Council is a sector development partner to the private and the public sectors, and believes in bringing all stakeholders closer together to help create a sustainable business environment for the industry, and to accelerate digital development in regional economies.
As an international non-profit organization, SAMENA Council is contributing to the understanding of cross-stakeholder priorities within the public and the private sectors. The Council has created a unique regional position as the regulatory reach and operator advocacy organization, promoting institution-level engagements with leading private and public-sector organizations.
SAMENA Council was founded in 2006. In February 2016, Saudi Telecom Company, represented by Dr. Khaled Biyari, became the chairman of the Board of Directors of SAMENA Council.