Raising the bar: Mohamed Ghanim

Protecting consumers from the potential dangers of the internet is a key role of the UAE's Telecoms Regulatory Authority.

  • E-Mail
By  Administrator Published  November 5, 2008

Protecting consumers from the potential dangers of the internet was the basis of the UAE's Telecoms Regulatory Authority's appearance at GULFCOMMS, with domain name registration, internet security and safety among the key messages. CommsMEA spoke to director general Mohamed Ghanim about the TRA's initiatives and about some of the most pressing regulatory issues affecting the UAE.

With 80% of the UAE's population expatriates, the issue of cheap international calls is a familiar subject to TRA director general Mohamed Ghanim. In many countries around the world, consumers have the option of making calls over the internet, using low-cost, voice over internet (VoIP) service providers.

Although businesses in the UAE can use VoIP to make domestic calls between offices, consumers in the UAE have so far not been able to access such services to make international calls.

The TRA boss says that international VoIP calls will be sanctioned, but it is in the customer's interest that regulation surrounding the provision of VoiP calls is not rushed.

"We gave the right for companies like Etisalat and du to provide VoIP through their technology to make national calls and we are going to upgrade this to cover international calls," Ghanim says.

The issue, Ghanim says, arises when telecoms services are paid for; under UAE legislation, any company that wants to provide communication services to the public has to be licensed by the TRA.

"If something happened where you lost your money, or you were not provided with a service, or not given the bill, they lost your credit for one reason or another, you wanted to go to an emergency service, or you wanted to go to a doctor - you will not be able to have it, because such services do not have emergency services," Ghanim says.

"So there implications that we need to address before we allow such companies to provide services, a minimum set of requirements we have to set, besides licensing of those companies, and we are working on it. We are discussing it right now, and we are working with the industry," he says.

Domain names

With so many industry figures gathered together, the TRA took the opportunity to trumpet its plan to take the process of selling domain names away from the incumbent operator Etisalat, and to promote UAE registered domain names as "the national flag of the UAE".

"We have signed with nine companies which basically sell the high level domain names of the UAE, and they are selling it not only within the UAE but also to entities outside the UAE," Ghanim says.

"The main issue was that domain names used to be handled by Etisalat, and it is not appropriate that Etisalat was basically managing the high level domain names of the country," he adds.

"Like the numbering plan, like the spectrum, these are natural - and national - resources, and need to be managed by an independent entity which gives it to everybody equally," Ghanim says.

The TRA has set itself a target of selling a total of 300,000 variants of the ‘.ae' domain. But Ghanim insists that it is not a revenue generating exercise.

"We want to promote the domain name of the UAE; we want it to be the national flag of the UAE, and we thought that we have to push it harder, we have a target of numbers of domain names that we would like to sell over the next years and we would like to do it as aggressively as we can," he adds.

The TRA chief says that increased competition has been the aim in voice, data, fixed line and mobile, but up until now one of the sticking points for heightening competition in the internet was the registration of domain names.

Internet security

Protecting consumers from some of the perils of the internet is another objective pursued by the TRA at this year's Gulfcomms show.

The UAE's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), which was first launched in July this year, was given a timely boost following the breach in security of many UAE resident's bank accounts.

"The CERT constitutes a cyber security coordination centre in the UAE. This initiative will facilitate the detection, prevention and response to the broader set of cyber security incidents on the internet," Ghanim says.

The latest CERT campaign focuses on schools, and in particular the threats that young people and students might encounter when downloading information over the web, and the best ways for them to protect their personal communications.

Consumer protection formed another pillar of the TRA's Gulfcomms message, with a licensing and certification procedure for service providers offering e-commerce services and the aim to provide secure online transactions.

"This is something that which has been waiting for a long time, now we have the green light to proceed." Ghanim says.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code