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Home | Development | NTRA, Dr. Amr Badawi
Dr. Amr BadawiNTRA: Regulations Beyond Boundaries

Shedding Light on Egyptian ICT Market

Dr. Amr Badawi is currently the Executive President of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA). He is also a professor of Electronics at Cairo University.

Before that he served as Senior Advisor to the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, where he handled the development of the Telecom Sector. He was involved in the policy development and in providing support to all the telecom entities such as the ISPs, vendors, etc.

Dr. Badawi joined MCIT after a nine-year tenure with GTE & General Dynamics. There, he acted as Program Manager and in several other technical positions in support of the Telecom Sector Support and the ICT programs in Egypt.

Prior to his tenure at GTE he founded Telecomp International in Egypt in 1990. He also taught at Cairo University and was a Telecom consultant for several government and private entities from 1987 - 1995. Dr Badawi worked as a development and systems engineer at Aydin Systems, California from 1984 to 1987. Dr. Badawi holds a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, California and obtained both his M.Sc. and B.Sc. degrees in Electronics Engineering from Cairo University.

Q: How do you define convergence and what does it mean for Egypt?
A: There is no universal definition for convergence, however it has been defined as "the ability of different networks to carry similar services," and also as "the ability of one network to carry different services." Good examples of convergence are the provision of Internet access and television through mobile handsets and the "triple play" services offered by cable television networks and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Egypt possesses several advantages, which positively positions it as a promising market for ICT and Media convergence. Its infrastructure potential, talented ICT professionals, efficient service providers, and empowering regulatory framework are only some of the factors that enable a potential shift to a converged communications sector to become much easier.

Content is a key word in the convergence game, and Egypt has always been and remains to be the leading source of culture and entertainment in the Arab world. Egypt could become an exporter of content to feed into the convergence machine; consequently, economies of scale could be achieved.

Q: What do you see as the main challenges in "Converged" versus "Conventional" models of regulation and unified licensing?
A: The main challenge is the switch from a technology or service specific structure to a technology neutral, simplified set of licensing categories, and in some cases, unified (single) license or market entry procedure for all technologies and services. The simplification of the administrative requirements of those procedures is another challenge.

It is important to note that any modification must be managed to minimize inconsistencies between new and existing rules. Reforms of the licensing regulatory frameworks will only be effective if the guiding principles of technology neutrality and flexibility are applied to the rights and obligations of the telecommunication operators as well as to the other elements of the regulatory framework.

Q: The convergence of media, telecom and information technology is pushing disconnected players into a single segment. How is the NTRA providing an environment enabling increasingly merged segment, while supporting existing operators to make it through this transition?
A: Within framework of the Egyptian economic and technical progress going on, the NTRA should work on augmenting the convergence positive effects with regards to innovation, competition, connectivity, and economic growth. NTRA holds hearing sessions, workshops and go through consultation processes with the main industry players to support convergence. One of our priorities is to ensure that convergence does not harm competition, neither through disrupting existing competitive businesses nor through affecting future equality between different operators and companies.

Transparency is another key word. No framework is effective without the establishment of a transparent regulatory regime that puts the interests of the government, the industry players and the users into consideration. The NTRA monitors industry needs through different consultation processes and meanwhile keeps pace with the latest technological developments and therefore the main challenge for us is to design a system flexible enough to meet national goals, and accommodate technological change within framework of a transparent system.

Q: How is the TRA working to encourage the spread of broadband to both businesses and homes?
A: NTRA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), is working with all relevant stakeholders with the objective of increasing broadband penetration in Egypt. This public-private partnership between the government and the private sector started in May 2004 where the "Broadband Initiative" was launched under the auspices of MCIT and in partnership with NTRA, TE and licensed data operators. Chief among the initiative's main objectives was attaining affordability of broadband services. Collaborative efforts started by reducing fees related to local loop sharing, as well as national and international capacities. The initiative was reviewed twice in July 2006 and July 2007 and both reviews were part of the continuous improvement and adjustment process which has resulted in further reduction in ADSL service prices.

In addition, NTRA has played a key role in increasing broadband penetration and attaining service affordability. NTRA, through the universal service fund, subsidized a basic entry package, affordable to lower-income segments as well as national capacities in areas with lower demand to overcome the higher prices of service provisioning in those areas.

NTRA has also played an important role in spreading awareness on broadband services by introducing effective call center support at both government and private sector levels, as well as by being engaged, in cooperation with all different stakeholders, in a strong brand-less marketing campaign to enhance public awareness on broadband and ADSL benefits. NTRA also launched a nationwide awareness campaign to introduce people to the disadvantages of illegal sharing of ADSL lines clearly illustrating the legal liabilities of this action.

Q: How are you ensuring that sufficient spectrum is being made available for the increased services being offered by mobile operators, particularly with the advent of 3G?
A: It is the responsibility of NTRA to develop and maintain a strategic framework to ensure the following:

a) Timely access of spectrum for new services and technologies;

b) Economically and technically efficient usage of spectrum resource

c) Incessant improvement of the efficient and optimum usage of the spectrum resource through adoption of advanced techniques for spectrum allocation and management as well as for licensing processes based on operational requirements and technical and economic viability.

For the first two mobile operators, there is already sufficient frequency spectrum for 2G service, either in the 900 MHz or the 1800 MHz bands. NTRA has managed to provide the necessary spectrum for the third mobile operator in the EGSM 900MHZ, the 1800 MHz, and the 3G bands. NTRA has also managed to provide spectrum to the first two operators in order to provide 3G services.

If any additional frequency spectrum is required for either the introduction of new services, or increasing the number of subscribers (without degrading the quality of service), NTRA negotiates with agencies that are occupying the needed spectrum to evacuate these bands in return of fair compensation, in accordance with Article 54 of the Egyptian Telecommunication Act No. 10/2003.

Q: How do you hope to see Egypt's mobile market develop in the near future, how many unique subscribers for instance do you expect to see in the next few years and what is the NTRA doing to encourage this growth?
A: Mobile subscribers stand currently at 30 millions, which is equal to about 40% of the Egyptian population. Nevertheless, we intend to increase this number in the coming era where to that end the NTRA issued the third mobile operator license for providing mobile services.

Operating in 2007, the introduction of a third mobile operator in the market has positively enhanced competition and urged operators to review their promotions and services strategy, which in turn increased the total number of subscribers significantly. The NRTA has also issued the license of 3G services for the other two operators and this led to the introduction of new services and higher speed internet services.

Q: How has the fixed market been affected by the undoubted growth of mobile communications?
A: With the growing increase of mobile subscribers, fixed operators have to rely on other services rather than the voice ones. Developing other services such as Cable TV and higher speed internet services will make them better compete with mobile operators. Leasing their infrastructure to other operators including mobile ones is another opportunity that will enable them to increase their revenues and their market shares.

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