The UAE is one of the most well connected countries in the world for broadband internet access but also has a relatively high cost. How would you describe the dynamic between broadband penetration, performance, and cost?
The UAE's fiber broadband networks are very advanced and very fast by international standards. Such networks are expensive to build and maintain. Despite this, prices of broadband services in the UAE are not unreasonably high. They are low by Arab standards and similar to prices in other GCC countries. Furthermore, broadband services are generally purchased as a bundle with other fixed-line services. The price of fixed-line services are very low in the UAE by international standards. This needs to be taken into account when considering the price of broadband. Broadband penetration levels in the UAE are relatively high. Around 90% of households have an internet connection.
What are your expectations with TRA rolling out its Triple Play Services?
During 2015, we expect that bitstream will be launched. We would expect the resulting competition to exert downward pressure on prices for fixed-line services including triple play bundles. Given licensees will need to work harder both to acquire new subscribers and retain existing subscribers, we might also see increased activity in terms of time limited promotions, better quality services, increased focus on delivering excellence in customer service, and the emergence of increasingly innovative product structures as licensees seek to differentiate their services. The TRA will need to be vigilant in ensuring that the operators continue to compete fairly once bitstream is implemented. To facilitate this, the TRA has a comprehensive competition safeguards regulatory framework aimed at preventing anticompetitive conduct from occurring. The TRA will also monitor bitstream carefully to ensure that consumers switching from one operator to another are switched efficiently, effectively, and without undue delay.
What is the role that TRA plays in Dubai becoming the capital of the Islamic economy?
Without high-quality, high-speed, and reliable ICT services, businesses will not choose to establish a presence in Dubai. Therefore, the TRA and the UAE's licensed operators have been working very hard to establish an ICT environment that meets or exceeds the expectations of businesses. Indeed, the TRA sees the UAE as a global leading country in ICT. In the second half of 2013, the TRA undertook an intensive survey of businesses in the UAE focusing on business usage of ICT services in order to better understand business perceptions on their usage of, and demands for, ICT services. This survey revealed that 93% of respondents were either satisfied or extremely satisfied with their fixed line services, 91% were either satisfied or extremely satisfied with their fixed internet services, and 93% were either satisfied or extremely satisfied with their mobile services. Overall, the TRA is very proud of the achievements of the sector to date; the telecommunications networks in the UAE are among the fastest and most modern in the world and prices are reasonable by international standards. This will undoubtedly contribute to the UAE being a leading capital within the Islamic World. On March 5th, 2015, the Dubai Smart City initiative was launched. As part of this strategy, the public will be able to engage with government departments and undertake government services using their smartphones.