|Africa and the Middle East 2008
|A roadmap for Jordanian teslecommunication
|Chairman of the Board of Commissioners & CEO
|the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), Jordan
Dr. Ahmad Hiasat is the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners and CEO of the Jordanian Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC). Dr. Hiasat served previously as the Dean of the King Abdullah II of Electrical Engineering – Princess Sumaya University for Technology (PSUT). In addition, he worked as consultant to the Minister/Ministry of Education of Jordan for the Education Reform for Knowledge Economy (ERfKE) project. Earlier, he worked as a Communications and Computer Engineer and as the Head of Communications & Data Processing Sections for the Telecommunications Directorate and the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF). Dr. Hiasat holds a PhD in Systems Engineering from Oakland University, Rochester, MI, USA, and a MSc in Communications Engineering and a BSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Jordan.
Jordan has long realised the importance of reaching out beyond its borders, and recognised the vital importance of partnerships between the public and the private sectors to attract investment and enable economic growth, work productivity, job creation, and public prosperity. Jordan has steadily pursued these objectives through liberalising its telecom markets, among other sectors, and striving to become a regional ICT leader. Jordan’s regulatory authority has worked to create a fully competitive telecommunications market with a level field for all players.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) is the governmental body responsible for regulating and monitoring the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and Postal sectors in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan since 1995. The TRC ensures the provision of high quality communication services to users at just, reasonable, and affordable prices. The TRC also encourages existing telecom operators and service providers, the newcomers and investors to contribute to the economic and social development of the Kingdom by offering the most advanced and reliable communication tools. His Majesty King Abdullah II’s vision was vital in shaping the advancements of the ICT sector in Jordan. His Majesty in stating the vision said: “We realise that private investment is the real engine for sustainable economic development. We have, therefore, adopted a course of action to encourage such investments in key sectors of Jordan’s economy. This course includes legislation aimed at liberalising these sectors through privatisation, proper regulation and guarantee of fair competition.” His Majesty’s support is the key catalyst for Jordan’s economic growth and a key driver for transforming the country into a knowledge-based economy. The TRC’s vision – in accordance with the Government Policy of 2007 regarding the ICT & Postal sectors – is to strive to provide “an advanced environment of ICT and Postal services that is efficient, competitive, and accessible to all; supporting effectively the economic and social development of Jordan”. The policy includes clear and achievable steps aiming at creating a stable environment within which initiatives, investments, and necessary sector regulations can proceed with confidence to enable and achieve sustainable economic and social development. The TRC is guided by the Telecommunications Law in addition to the Government Policy to develop the telecom market with a platform of transparency and fairness in dealings, therefore accommodating the rapid-paced and challenging market developments. These developments will be achieved through providing the necessary conditions for effective competition including, but not limited to, creating a trusted ICT environment, ensuring a culture of regulatory compliance, limiting the effects of dominance and anticompetitive practices, reducing barriers to market entry and creating new market entry possibilities, dealing with the radio frequency spectrum in an effective manner, and implementing Jordan’s e-readiness, including e-Commerce, e-Learning, e-Government, and e-Health. Currently, the ICT sector in Jordan is rapidly developing; it reached a volume of 1.8 billion US Dollars by the end of 2006 as a result of the telecom market liberalisation in 2005, and it is expected to keep growing and become one of the largest markets in the region. Liberalisation has opened the door to the development of the effective competition, which has been the major factor in the sector’s growth and prosperity. The licensing of a third mobile operator, the licensing of alternative fixed line operators, the investment of regional and global operators in existing licensees in the Kingdom, and the development of an integrated licensing and regulatory regime to help govern this booming market, are just a few results of liberalisation. This has facilitated the entrance of many services, and has been the primary driving force for transforming this market into an economic success story. During 2007, the TRC has undertaken many projects to usher in cutting-edge technologies and services including Fixed Broadband Wireless Access (FBWA), Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), and Third Generation Networks (3G), which are expected to considerably reshape the market for the coming few years. In regard to FBWA and in the process of allowing the entry of the radio based services, such as WiFi and WiMAX, including ‘hotspot’ services, the TRC has adopted the ‘general tenders procedures’ methodology to award frequency licenses, due to the scarce resources for the provision of FBWA services. Jordan was the first Arab country to adopt such an approach. During the first and second phases of this process, five companies have won bids for the offered frequencies to provide fixed wireless communications. One of those companies has already begun providing WiMAX services. This healthy competitive environment will eventually result in national coverage with high quality fast wireless Internet capability at lower prices. The TRC is further promoting service-based competition by encouraging the formation of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). In the fourth quarter of 2007 the regulatory decision on the provision of MVNO services was issued. Different types of MVNOs could be implemented depending on how far each would rely on the existing mobile networks’ facilities. Although MVNOs have existed in many European countries for several years now, Jordan is the first Arab country to take such an initiative. Some Arab countries are looking forward to the results of the Jordanian experience before following suit. The TRC is also working on developing a regulatory framework to provide hybrid services using network element resale including local loop unbundling. In accordance with the ICT Statement of Government Policy the TRC is currently examining the spectrum capacity available for advanced mobile networks, including 3G, and has consulted the ICT sector to develop a comprehensive statement on the licensing of 3G frequencies. Consequently, the TRC will develop the corresponding licensing approach. This also includes the consideration of utilising existing 2G frequency bands to provide more advanced and efficient services. Many initiatives will be undertaken to provide sustainable competition for fixed sub-sectors such as international gateways, in the hope of yielding a noticeable increase in quality, a decrease in the cost of international calls, and increased availability of broadband Internet access. Moreover, and in realisation of the importance of the availability of broadband access, the Government of Jordan established a goal that at least 50 per cent of all Internet access should be broadband within five years, and that affordability of broadband access should be significantly improved. In retrospect, since the beginning of telecom market liberalisation in 2005, there has been a noted increase in technological integration into the lifestyle of the Jordanian consumer, and numerous benefits have been achieved socially and economically. A comparison between the years 2002 and 2006 shows the irrefutable effect of liberalisation on the Jordanian telecom sector, whereby during the later period there has been a 240 per cent increase in mobile penetration rate, and a 33 per cent increase in the ICT sector’s contribution to the Jordanian Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is expected that the coming three years will tremendously reshape the ICT sector in Jordan. The TRC, being technology neutral, will continue to minimise market entry barriers thereby accelerating the provision of advanced, diversified, and converged services. Ensuring the equivalence of treatment in regulating the activities of all licensed operators is of great importance to enhance a healthy environment for current operators, present and future investors, and end users. Telecom services have facilitated transmission of local and international information and made communication a way of life, and not only a tool, by bridging the gaps between countries and continents. It is our aim to attract investment in the provision of telecom services not only for domestic consumption, but also for the provision of transit or ‘hub’ services on a regional basis. The development of the ICT sector in Jordan has resulted in increasing job opportunities and has, as well, mobilised other sectors, such as education, trade, banking, transport, and media, to take part in Jordan’s socio-economic growth.