ARNET meeting 22-24 January 2006
With Egypt’s presidency of this session of the Arab Network for Regulators (ARNET) coming to an end, Egypt hosted the last meeting of ARNET from 22 to 24 January 2006 in Cairo. Eleven official delegates of Arab regulators attended the meeting, in addition to observers and speakers, who represented the Arab League Technical Secretariat, ITU Regional office, Arab Business Forum for Information and Communication Technology, GSM Association, European Union and some mobile operators and representatives of related NGOs.
The purpose of this meeting was twofold. First, the participants discussed the high roaming prices in the Arab countries, and the possible means of reducing them to meet consumers’ demands without forgoing investors’ benefits. In June 2005, Arab Telecommunications and Information Council of Ministers (ATICM) had assigned ARNET to conduct studies on the prices of roaming in the Arab world.
Second, participants reviewed the ARNET projects and mechanisms of implementing them. To document the status of these projects, the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) issued pamphlets and a CD, containing summaries for these projects demonstrating their status.
ARNET projects are categorized into four axes:
• First: Activating and developing the institutional performance
• Second: Preparing the general guidelines for the regulatory policies
• Third: Formulating the ICT technical standards and specifications
• Fourth: Capacity-building, developing human resources and exchange of experts and expertise
Egypt is the manager of several projects including:
• Database to support the ARNET members
• Universal Services projects
• Fair competition framework
• Standards Guidelines
• Standards for Health, Safety and Environment
• A Database for experts and expertise
o An online forum.
Recommendations of the meeting included:
1. Extending thanks to Arab telecommunications companies and operators, who confine increase of roaming prices upon 15% for the Arab roamer in comparison with the user of national services.
2. Encouraging telecommunications companies and operators to reconsider this percentage, and try to reduce it as per recommendations of ATICM.
3. Encouraging telecommunications companies and operators in the Arab region to adhere to transparency with regards to declaring the prices of International roaming services.
4. Sending all information on the prices of the International roaming services provided by the operators in the Arab countries to the ARNET Secretariat within 2 months henceforth and updating them periodically.
5. Urging telecommunications companies and operators in the Arab region to negotiate on pricing restructuring, in a way that would positively affect international roaming services prices.
6. Recommending the endorsing the system of Optimized Call Routing – (OCR) by telecommunications companies and operators in the Arab region.
7. Recommending the assigning of a number for Customer Service so that the minute price would not exceed the price of the minute of a local call. Hence, the customer would be able to get information and advice on the networks providing best offers in the country he would visit before leaving his native country. This service would be announced and declared, and the number would be announced in departure halls in airports similar to the operators’ ads in arrival halls.
8. Studying the international roaming services in the Arab countries, and forming a working group comprising Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Algeria in addition to any country willing to join it. The Working group would in collaboration with the secretariat do the following:
a) Examining and analyzing available data, with special focus on the percentage between the price of the roaming service and national service provided by the same operator
b) Examination of international experiences
c) Stating recommendations that would be submitted to the permanent Secretariat, and submitting a report with 6 months, detailing the different methods of reducing the international roaming services in the Arab countries, and putting a regulatory framework to make a connection between the international roaming services and the prices of the national services and encouraging competition by taking more measures for opening more markets
d) Assigning the ARNET secretariat to publish and update outcome of afore mentioned studies
It is worth mentioning in this regard that the prior to the ARNET meeting, the participants and ambassadors of the Arab countries in Egypt were invited by NTRA to a dinner. His Excellency, Dr. Tarek Camel attended the dinner and delivered a speech in which he congratulated the NTRA and the ARNET on their achievements in ICT sector.