The IIC’s first Telecommunications and Media Forum (TMF) of 2017 was hosted in Doha by the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) of Qatar, with a focus on the Gulf region.
The CRA’s president, Mohammed Ali Al-Mannai, gave a keynote presentation that highlighted the country’s decision to develop the digital sector, currently responsible for 1.7% of GDP. As a key enabler of the country’s economic diversification and its sustainable growth, the sector is now regulated by a converged agency that is also charged with promoting its growth. He noted the need for greater harmonisation to push the region and the industry forward.
Speakers from other regulators in the region argued for a variety of regulatory objectives with connectivity a key focus, differentiated according to the needs of geography (such as deploying fibre in cities and wireless broadband in rural areas). One common objective is stimulating investment and innovation in the digital industries, and a panel discussion focused on the best way to achieve this. James Bellis (Frontier Economics) highlighted that telecoms operators are a major contributor to government revenues, through royalties, spectrum fees and corporate taxes, and this may be difficult to sustain in the long term.
Nezih Dincbudak (Orange, Middle East and Africa) argued that policy needs to look at public and even international support to complement private investments in rural areas, and for long distance submarine cables. The regulatory focus, he reasoned, should be on digital inclusion of the population.
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