Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Persian Gulf: A call for unified licensing in GCC countries

[zawya] Middle East regulators should work towards providing a unified telecom licence for operators in the region so that infrastructure can be shared and prices for consumers reduced.

This was the view expressed by a number of telecoms company CEOs on Tuesday at the WiMAX Forum Mena in Dubai. They said regulators should speed up the process of issuing such a licence.

An open licence would enable operators to offer converged services such as data, voice and video to consumers. WiMAX is a type of wireless broadband technology.

"Regulators have to get serious and issue the licence as it will help the Middle East market to grow," Dr Ahmed A Sindi, CEO of Saudi Arabia-based Go Etihad Atheeb Telecom, told Emirates Business. "As mobility gains popularity, value-added services are becoming key to operators in the region, and consumers in the future will want a modem, dongle and voice together."

A unified licence would mean new operators would not have to build new infrastructure but could share existing networks.

Walid Thabet, Director of Data Services and Solutions at Mobily of Saudi Arabia, said: "The consumer will be the one benefiting from this at the end of the day. VOIP on WiMAX will change the market."

Some industry leaders said regulators should liberalise markets in the Middle East. Dr Laith Sadiq, CEO of Bahrain operator Mena Telecom, said: "Unified licensing would not make sense if there were only two operators in a market, therefore there should be more competition.

"This kind of licensing would enable operators to bundle different services but this does not mean subsidising prices, which is not good as it drives competition out of the market. Broadband prices are high in the region and this would have a downward effect on this front."

Operators said there should be increased focus on WiMAX as this would help to drive prices down in the Middle East.

Sindi said: "The WiMAX Forum must track the performance of regulators in the region and compare it with other parts of the world. Certain regulators in the region are doing a real good job while some are still learning and only doing half the job."

Call for unified telecom licence for operators

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