Having established itself as one of the most proactive regulatory authorities in the Gulf with activities such as the devising of the first detailed spectrum map in the region, the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has set a bold agenda of activities in 2007. CommsMEA speaks with Mohammed Gheyath, manager, technical affairs, TRA about the regulator's 2007 agenda.
Given the UAE's ambitions of becoming a leading global economy, the country's communications facilities and the regulation thereof is important to creating an environment conducive to further development of commerce and industry.
The internet, one of the most pervasive business tools in the world is a utility that the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is set to better manage during the course of 2007. A programme is already underway to establish the .ae domain as the de facto address for all businesses and individuals conducting business in the country, and the TRA is reviewing the framework, governance and administration of .ae.
"We want to help establish the value of the .ae domain name," explains Mohammed Gheyath, manager, technical affairs, at the TRA. "We have been involved in a review with the assistance of external experts in order to provide a global perspective on this matter, with the view to making the .ae domain name the definitive and default location where the internet using public of the UAE is represented."
The review process of the domain name was set to have closed at the end of 2006, with the regulator moving to establish the new structure in 1Q07. The proposed industry structure would call for the establishment of the .ae Domain Administration, by the TRA as an independent, self-funding legal entity. The administrator would be focussed on educating the public, as well as delivering and promoting the .ae domain.
In terms of placing the growth in the number of .ae domain name registrations in last few years in context, the TRA estimates that the number of such registrations topped 35,000 in 2006, up from just over 20,000 in 2004 and around 5,000 in 2001.
"The economy in the UAE is developing very quickly and we would like to be in a position to give companies and individuals every confidence that the internet in the UAE can support their growing requirements," Gheyath comments.
The TRA has penned 2Q07 as the timeframe to migrate to the new operation, with the Domain Administration managing the Registry Technical Function and utilising best practice systems and technologies, including Oracle Database and real-time dynamic Domain Name System (DNS).
There are currently up to 10 domain name structures, and part of the TRA's review programme is to establish whether new policy is to be introduced for each second level domain name. By 3Q07 the TRA expects to launch the new .ae capability and from that point going forward is set to oversee that the Domain Administration is working efficiently and effectively.
The TRA is also in the process of establishing a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), which will act as the first point of contact to deal with computer threats and viruses. As Gheyath describes it, the reliance on computers in modern societies necessitates a prepared response should any security breaches occur. The CERT's goals are defined as facilitating the detection, prevention and response to cyber security incidents on the internet.
"It is all about globalisation. Companies from all around the world also conduct their business in the UAE, and as a regulatory authority we need to ensure that our ability to cope with computer threats is as good, if not better than international standards," Gheyath states.
The establishment of the CERT is set to enhance the cyber security law and assist in the creation of new laws; enhance information security awareness in the country; as well as provide a trusted national centre for the dissemination of information about threats, vulnerabilities, and cyber security incidents. The organisation is also set to foster the establishment of and provide assistance to sector-based Computer Security Incidents Response Teams (CSIRT), and coordinate these teams' efforts with domestic and international CSIRT.
Type-Approval initiatives are also high on the TRA's agenda in 2007, and are aimed at requiring radio and telecoms terminal equipment to comply with technical specifications and be registered with the TRA before it can be supplied to the UAE. The provisions are set to offer further confidence to the market.
In 1999 incumbent UAE operator Etisalat created the Emirates Telecom Lab, a Type-Approval unit that was the only existing telecoms equipment testing facility in the Middle East. Manufacturers and equipment suppliers had to submit their products to the lab for rigorous testing and checking before they were allowed to start selling these items to the UAE market.
The Type-Approval process itself involved a comprehensive range of tests in a controlled laboratory that checked the safety, electrical and operational characteristics of the product. To protect the end-user, none of the equipment that interfered with the Etisalat network was allowed into the UAE market.
On successful completion of the tests, each product was awarded a unique Type- Approval reference number, and armed with this reference number the manufacturer was permitted to market the product and in particular attach the official Type-Approval label to it.
The establishment of the TRA as an independent regulatory body and the moves to usher in competition into the UAE telecoms sector meant incumbent operator Etisalat could no longer be responsible for Type-Approval in the UAE, and as of May last year, this authority transferred to the national regulator.
Registration of equipment with the TRA must now be supported by test reports to declare its conformity and the other technical documentation. An application form must be submitted to the TRA, and registered and approved equipment must be marked, or have a mark on its packaging, along with user information to identify that it has been Type approved.
"Through our Type-Approval efforts we look to protect the interests of consumers in the UAE, and ensure the quality of products available on the market," Gheyath comments.
The TRA also chose the inaugural GULFCOMMS event in Dubai in November to announce details of the ICT Fund, an initiative specifically designed to cater to funding needs of the local ICT sector.
The ICT Fund has been established under the umbrella of the TRA to provide funding for feasible projects in the ICT sector within the UAE. The launch of the fund is imminent and its vision is to achieve a regional leadership position for the UAE ICT sector by fostering, innovation and creativity.
There is no limit on the funding amount and the application process is open to the general public, so long as the majority of the benefits accrue to the ICT sector in the UAE.
"We are passionate about fostering an environment where growth and innovation are at the centre of our efforts, and this is the objective of the fund," Gheyath states.