|Issue:||Africa and the Middle East 2009|
|Topic:||Building a Jordanian wire-free community|
|Author:||by Ahmad Hiasat|
|Title:||Chairman of the Board of Commissioners and CEO|
|Organisation:||The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), JORDAN|
Ahmad Hiasat is the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners and CEO of the Jordanian Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC). Prior to that, Dr Hiasat worked as the Dean of the King Abdullah II of Electrical Engineering – Princess Sumaya University for Technology (PSUT) until he was appointed as the Chairman and CEO of TRC. Previously, Dr Hiasat also worked as a part-time consultant to the Minister and the Ministry of Education of Jordan for the ‘Education Reform for the Knowledge Economy’ (ERfKE) project. Earlier, he worked as a Communications/ Computer Engineer and as Head of the Communications & Data Processing Sections of the Royal Jordanian Air Force. Dr.Hiasat holds a Ph. D. in Systems Engineering from Oakland University, Rochester, MI, USA and a M. Sc. in Communications Engineering and B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Jordan.
Jordan is determined to become a major telecom centre in the Middle East and transform itself into an information-based economy by encouraging the widespread use of broadband Internet access by its people. Jordan’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) has been in the forefront of this effort. The TRE has worked to ensure a fair and transparent regulatory culture that fosters competitiveness, ease of market entry, technological neutrality, radio frequency spectrum allocation for socio-economic growth, and implementation of e-commerce, e-learning, e-government, and e-health.
“Within the Global Village, Jordan has been eager to set its dreams to reach the sky, realizing at an early stage the importance of creating a knowledge-base community, with a recognition of the powerful effect of creating a Wire-Free Community. Accordingly, mobile penetration has grown by 297 per cent within the period 2002-2008”. For more than a decade, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) of Jordan has been regulating and monitoring the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Postal sectors in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan pursuant to the provisions of the Telecommunications Law. During this time, but mainly in the past three years, guided by the Government Policy Statement of 2007 on the Information and Communications Technology and Postal Sectors, TRC has been taking steps to further enhance the Jordanian telecom market with a culture of transparency and fairness in dealings, therefore accommodating the rapid-paced and challenging market developments. These steps have always been supported by enhancing the 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. With aspirations supported by a consistent regulation platform, TRC has helped the telecommunications sector develop rapidly to accommodate the market’s current needs and future demands. TRC supports the principle of ‘technology neutrality’ in regulation, taking into consideration that new technologies nevertheless have regulatory impacts due to the creation of non-traditional services or by breaking down barriers between traditionally separate ‘relevant markets’, TRC has been constantly adopting the needed regulatory changes that will eliminate the barriers to the rapid introduction and use of new technologies. With that principle in mind, along with TRC’s vision 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,” TRC has been ushering in new technologies by monitoring the market and issuing technology neutral licenses. Because of these actions the market expects to witness many positive changes that will reflect on Jordanian socioeconomic development. Not many years ago, mobile technological devices were only fiction. Nowadays, much of our communications depends upon wireless technology and mobile devices. We have wireless phones, wireless computers, wireless Internet and a wide variety of high-tech mobile devices. This leap has exceeded all expectations; our relatively small mobile phones are now multimedia, multifunctional devices known as smartphones. These devices are an embodiment of the concept of service convergence; they offer data, voice, text – SMS and MMS, music, radio, video, and round the clock Internet connectivity that facilitates eService interaction. This convergence has made our lives much easier, and it is one of the main factors driving the impressive growth of home Business. With a dream of creating a technologically wire-free world, TRC aspires to facilitate the entrance of the latest wireless technologies, such as WiMAX and WiFi, in Jordan. Currently, Jordan’s ICT sector is rapidly developing, and generated revenues of 2.1 billion US dollars by end of 2007 in comparison with 1.8 billion US Dollars in 2006. This growth is expected to continue and to make Jordan’s telecommunications market one of the largest in the region. During the past two years, TRC has continued on the path of liberalization by encouraging market -driven self-regulation especially by fostering new opportunities for service entry and investments. During these two years, TRC undertook several projects that support the concept of, “The Wire-Free Community”, allowing the entry of such radio based services as WiMAX and Wifi, and has opened the door for 3G licensing. With regard to WiMAX, TRC is granting Fixed Broadband Wireless Access (FBWA) licenses to make it possible to provide these services in Jordan. Five companies were granted FBWA licenses, and four of them have already begun providing WiMAX services in the Jordanian capital Amman; they will eventually expand to other governorates by the end of 2009. This healthy competitive environment will eventually bring high quality wireless- with national Internet coverage – at lower prices. TRC intends to announce new procedures in the coming few months that aim at providing fixed broadband Internet at lower prices especially for low speed bundles. When looking at this service from a socioeconomic point of view, we find several positive impacts. Because of the regulatory environment, service providers are competing strongly and this has benefitted the end user. We now have several broadband ‘speed limits’ with different download and upload limitations to serve the consumer according to his requirements and financial capabilities. Prices are decreasing – the variety of offers is bringing new, lower, standards for pricing to the market. The introduction of FBWA services has made high-speed Internet access possible from Universities, Internet cafes, coffee shops and restaurants. This wireless wave has helped Jordanian citizens and facilitated their business practices, whether home businesses or corporate, and is making Jordan a knowledge-based economy. TRC has also been working to provide WiFi hot spots using Radio Local area networks (R-LAN) to provide Internet services outside buildings. In light of TRC’s continuous efforts to provide third generation mobile communications services before the end of this year, and in accordance with the Government Policy Statement, TRC has announced a tender to license the use of radio spectrum frequencies for third generation mobile communications. The introduction of 3G services will offer significant benefits to the Jordanian economy. The introduction of new services and increased competition, consumers can expect to receive high-speed mobile data services at previously unachievable data rates, improved rural coverage, greater interactivity, better quality indoor coverage, and lower prices. In addition, users will enjoy new applications such as video calling, mobile e-commerce, and broadband audio-visual services. These services all help maximize the social welfare of the Jordanian people. Furthermore, we expect that the sector’s revenue will grow, benefitting both the operators and government’s treasury. Many other TRC initiatives foster sustainable competition in the fixed-line sub-sectors such as international gateways, and have resulted in a notable increase in quality, reduced costs for international calls and increased availability of broadband Internet access. Because of the importance of broadband, the Government of Jordan’s goal is to significantly improve the affordability of broadband, so that at least 50 per cent of all Internet access will be via broadband within 5 years. Since liberalizing the telecommunications market at the beginning of 2005, there has been a noteworthy increase in the technological integration of the Jordanian consumer lifestyle and numerous social and economic benefits have resulted. Comparing the years 2002 and 2008 shows the irrefutable effect of liberalization on the country’s economy and the telecom sector itself. Between 2002 and 2008, mobile penetration increased by 297 per cent and the ICT sector’s contribution to the Jordanian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 33 per cent. While much has been achieved, there is still much to do to fully satisfy the aspirations of the Jordanian government and people. Because of the increasing convergence between the IT and telecommunications sectors, IT no longer can be regarded as a truly separate sector. Rather, its future development is inextricably intertwined with that of telecommunications. Together, the two sectors hold incredible promise. The concept of the ‘wire-free community’ within the Global Village has helped to provide a broad range of new and advanced services that are contributing to facilitate the lifestyle of a socio-economically developed community. The spread of digital convergence and the Internet, broader opens the door for a wide range of wholly new services. This wire-free community will help bridge the digital divide existing between developing and developed countries. Accordingly, TRC will continue to minimize market entry barriers, thereby accelerating the provision of advanced, diversified, and converged services. By ensuring equivalent treatment in regulating the activities of all licensed operators, the TRE helps create a healthy environment for all operators, for present and future investors and for the end users.