GETTING CONNECTED

Abu Dhabi 2016 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), on market needs, the Federal Network, and supporting entrepreneurshiP.

HE Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori
BIOGRAPHY
HE Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori is the Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. He holds a master's degree in computer science from Middlesex University in London. Al Mansoori began his career in 1994 as the head of development department at the Central Military Zone. Throughout his career, he has held leading positions in the field of information systems with several government entities, prominently with the Dubai Police, the General Directorate for Residency and Foreign Affairs, the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation, and the Dubai Public Prosecution. Al Mansoori also holds the prestigious position of Chairman of the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology.

The UAE's ICT sector is the most advanced market of its kind in the region. What is your outlook on the sector and what have been the main drivers of growth in 2015?

The TRA's outlook for the UAE's telecommunications sector remains positive. We have two strong telecommunications service providers that have continued to invest in cutting-edge technologies. They both display high levels of innovation and are quick to respond to the needs of the market. The key drivers of growth in the UAE's telecommunications market in 2015 have been fixed, and we believe this trend will continue into 2016. It is now up to the licensees to continue to act upon the opportunities generated by a growing customer appetite for high-speed uninterrupted data services. Fixed-line bundles including telephony, broadband, and TV services also drove growth in 2015.

What initiatives are you planning to develop technologically advanced cities within the Emirates?

The TRA is managing one of the most important sectors when it comes to the future of economy and government. ICT is the nervous system of smart cities, providing the infrastructure for IoT and M2M communication. One of our most important projects is the government smart cloud, which is the main product of the Federal Network (FedNet). FedNet provides common infrastructure for enabling availablity and providing convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources for federal government entities. FedNet promotes communication between various federal entities using a single secure common architecture and plays a vital role in enabling the mGovernment. The FedNet program will deliver a cloud environment, which will be a scalable, on-demand network. The FedNet project comes under the direction of connectedness and integration, which is the fourth level in a smart government as mandated by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. One of the other projects is developing the smart data strategy, which includes managing, analyzing, and availing data to citizens. This is essential to serve the business need for apps and other solutions, which cannot be developed in the absence of data.

Are you willing to open more opportunities for international business within the ICT sector?

The TRA is tasked with overseeing and regulating the telecommunications sector in the state and ensuring competition in the sector according to state policy. The TRA is pleased to have issued a satellite license to Inmarsat's UAE-established entity and is expecting that the issuance will widen the supply and quality of satellite services in the UAE, leading to reductions in the price of such services. The TRA welcomes other applicants for satellite services to the extent that they meet the requirements determined within the Telecommunications Law, namely the localization of the entity—51% UAE ownership.

What is your strategy to support telecommunications entrepreneurship, a sector essential to the UAE's economy?

Telecommunications services are an essential input for SMEs. SMEs rely on telecommunications services to communicate with customers and potential customers, market products, sell products, recruit staff, and engage with suppliers, among other things. The TRA has several responsibilities to ensure that SMEs can operate at their full capacity. Ensuring the adequacy of telecoms services throughout the UAE while achieving the enhancement of services through quality and variety is a key function. On a wider scale, we are always looking to promote new technologies and ensure that the UAE becomes a regional ICT hub—this is made possible through, but not limited to, R&D. In other words, the TRA seeks to ensure the quality and range of services accessible by SMEs in order to improve the extent to which they can increase the opportunities offered by ICT services. Furthermore, the TRA seeks to regulate the sector in a manner that enhances competition between licensees. It has been well documented that enhanced competition drives down prices of telecommunications services. This will ultimately enable SMEs to offer lower prices for their products and services, thus enhancing their international competitiveness.