Regulator rises up to meet challenges

UAE's Telecoms Regulatory Authority is involved in flurry of activity as market matures rapidly.

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By  Administrator Published  September 8, 2007

With internet penetration and services growing at an exponential rate the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority's workload shows no signs of diminishing. Key to the UAE's ability to maintain its status as a regional hub for industry, tourism and commerce is the ability of the regulator to meet the challenges the relentless tide of technology poses.

Managed by Mohammed Gheyath, the role of the Technical Affairs Department is as a technical consultative body to almost all of the TRA's activities. "Our primary role is to advise on the advances, or limitations of technology in any task undertaken by the TRA as a body," explains Gheyath. The introduction of a second network operator has seen the department charged with a raft of new challenges as the UAE telecoms market adjusts to the realities of competition. "In recent months, one of our primary tasks has been to administer phone numbers to the respective operators in the market, as well as to ensure that all of the technical procedures and fee payments, are adhered to," Gheyath explains.

The introduction of market competition has also raised the question of number portability, with the TRA taking a leading role in the matter. The Technical Affairs Department is in the final stages of overseeing the completion of a solution that will successfully service the interests of the market. "The TRA chairs a mobile number portability group, and by the end of April or the beginning of May a company would have been chosen to start implementing the system," says the TRA's director general Mohamed Al Ghanim. Mobile number portability is expected to be introduced in the UAE by August this year.

The Technical Affairs Department is currently also looking at the development of next generation networks (NGNs) and is in the process of devising regulatory guidelines for such networks in the future. The UAE's TRA is one of the first bodies of its kind to engage in such research with its guidelines set to be finalised by mid-2008.

In addition, the Working in tandem with the network operators, the body has formulated a set of regulations to be implemented by 3Q07. "The introduction of health and safety regulations to the country's mobile phone hubs will benefit every strata of the market as it will raise levels of environmental and employee safety, as well as improve customer service," Gheyath says.

He also believes the establishment of standards will prove advantageous for vendors as new regulations will circumvent the cost of importing, testing, and possibly replacing equipment, into the country. "All vendors have to do is prove their equipment meets the specified standards before they import their goods into the UAE. Ultimately this will benefit all sectors of the market as it should speed up the development of the UAE's infrastructure," says Gheyath.

Increasing market confidence in the UAE's online business activities has also been at the centre of the Technical Affairs Department's activities with the unit focusing on the general public and business community as well as cyber-criminals.

"We initiated the Computer Emergency Response Team (aeCERT) to manage the internet security of the country. This team will investigate incidents such as hacking and network security within the UAE," Gheyath says.

aeCERT will coordinate the activities regarding the information security of every institution within the UAE, from public sector bodies to private industry, and will operate with the highest security services available to the industry given the sensitive nature of the information for which it is responsible. Gheyath claims that aeCERT will also act as the interface for internet services between UAE customers and the outside world in order to deter any criminal activity from abroad.

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