Mohamed Al Ghanim, TRA Director General, during his speech
The opening day of SAMENA Telecommunications Council’s “Beyond Connectivity 2011” focussed on the importance of digitization and the need for regional telecom operators to stimulate and build digital economies. Leading experts and decision makers from across the region delved into discussions on the second day of the conference to explore the evolution of technology and next generation networks such as FTTX and 4G, the role of operators and other stakeholders in expediting the digitization of the economy, and the socio-economic benefits of spectrum reshaping.
Thanking the Council for driving and supporting various vital aspects of the telecommunications industry, and the members for supporting SAMENA and participating in thought-provoking discussions, Eng. Saud Al Daweesh, Group CEO of Saudi Telecom and Chairman of SAMENA Telecommunications Council said, “The economic role played by the regional telecommunications industry in enabling growth has been overwhelming in the last few years. Telecom and ICT indicators continue to grow. The greatest value offered however, is the transformation of the lives of the people. The social and cultural implications of connectivity have been tremendous so far and hence SAMENA has been doing groundwork for the elaboration of region-wide ICT policies that could have significant social, economical and cultural benefits.”
Speaking about the UAE digital switchover for the first time, H.E. Mohamed Al Ghanim, Director General, TRA UAE said, “Spectrum was freed last year and LTE will soon be deployed in the UAE. TRA recognizes that major investments will be made in wireless technology in the next few years and the UAE switchover from analogy to digital broadcasting will be accomplished by 2013 after which the benefits of the digital divide can be reaped. The target is to release the 700MHz band by 2012 which will be made available to the operators. This will be a great milestone and we are committed to all stakeholders to meet the needs of the industry and will adopt a number of steps to ensure the smooth switchover.”
Earlier, welcoming the distinguished guests to the conference, Thomas Wilson, CEO & Executive Managing Director of SAMENA Telecommunications Council presented the roadmap for the Council for the next three years. He said, “The Council’s long standing vision has been to provide a unified voice and a collaboration forum for leading operators and service providers in the SAMENA Region. Under the new direction, the telecommunications council will promote the development and adoption of national and sector specific digitization policies that create new growth opportunities for telecom operators and ICT industry stakeholders while accelerating socio-economic development in the region, promote collaboration initiatives that enable growth and improve efficiency, incentivize investment and development, and broaden value creation opportunities.”
Mahassen Ajam, Commissioner, Board Member and Head of Information and Consumer Affairs Unit, TRA Lebanon said, “ICT infrastructure and advanced e-services enhance economic development and growth by providing new revenue sources for the government, improving profitability, provision of better services, enhancing transparency, reducing CAPEX and meeting the rapidly increasing demand for converged services. The role played by the Lebanese regulator is extremely crucial.”
Stating the need for collaboration among the different stakeholders, and the importance of coming up with collaborative and sustainable internet models, Wilson added, “The Middle East is the key to the success of the world. Some of the fastest expanding and growing operators are in the SAMENA region. SAMENA will facilitate the creation of a conducive environment for investing in next generation broadband infrastructure, including enabling policies, regulation, standards, and business models.”
Al Daweesh further added, “Convergence has become key, and partnership and collaboration is central to the success of different industry players as well as national and global economies. SAMENA is seeking the support of the industry stakeholders in building digital economies. The Middle East mobile broadband market is expected to reach 50 million subscribers by 2013, growing at an average annual rate of 45% from just 7 million in 2008.”
The last day of the three-day conference will feature panels on Mobile Content Innovation and the Innovations in technology in the home and through Satellite Broadband. The main highlight is the “CEO Live Session” which will provide insight into the leadership, thoughts and visions of telecoms leaders in the region, who will have the opportunity to interact and discuss with participants the future of the telecommunications industry, exploring topics related to intensifying competition and future strategies and technologies that need to be adopted, and investments required for building next generation high-speed networks.