SAMENA Teletimes April 2011-2

Key note address Dr. Mohammad Ali Al-Wahaibi, Unders secretary for Communications, Government of Oman

I would like to welcome all the participants and guests to Muscat for the SAMENA Broadband Summit 2011. We are very privileged to host this important Summit that gathers Industry Experts on Broadband.
As you are aware, Broadband networks are increasingly recognized as fundamental prerequisite for economic and social development. They serve as a communication and transaction platform for the entire economy and can improve productivity across all sectors.
it is, therefore, a key driver of economic growth and national competitiveness, and it can contribute to social and cultural development.
For many countries building Next Generation Broadband Networks constitute the single largest Infrastructure investment. Countries that don’t join the race risk the chance of being left behind in future economic and social prosperity.
However, due to the size and scale of the Investment of building next-generation broadband networks, telecom companies face a dilemma; first the level of uncertainty that relates to direct profitable return is not straightforward, second the new network remains a field of competition, third the regulation is not clear, and fourth the demand is uncertain.
Thus, due to the national economic benefits of NBN, government intervention is required to expedite its rollout.
However, before a government embarks in Building the Next- Generation Broadband Network it should balance between many conflicting requirements.
The First issue is the type of Government Intervention:
Should the government play the role of an Observer, a Facilitator, or a Driver?
However, before a government decides on the type of intervention it should review the country specific characteristics such as market structure, economic indicators, and geographic spread of the population.
The Second issue relates to Demand:
Is there an actual demand for  Next generation Broadband? Is this demand certain?
Can we build the NBN and assume that customers will queue for it? A sort of “build it and they will come!”
What levers that government can apply to stimulate Demand for NBN?
The third issue relates to Regulation:
What is the best Regulatory Regime for NBN? What costing methodologies should be adopted? What about frequency allocation?
Are the old regulatory tools such as local loop and interconnect regimes STILL suitable for the NBN.
Should a Regulator protect the investment of operators on the first-generation BB? And how would the Regulator chart a successful transition to the NBN regime.
The Fourth Issue is Competition:
Can the existing level of competition be achieved? Or would the new NBN reduce competition?
Would the new competition be in services and applications? If the new competition is in Services, would the new regime dis-incentives operators from Investing in Infrastructure? Do operators need to review their layers of traditional service delivery?
The fifth issue relates to Technology:
Does the new NBN have to be based on fiber only? Can mobile play a role as well? What technology should be used at the access level to foster innovation?
And finally what is the social impact of the NBN? Would the new NBN Bridge the digital divide between rural areas and the cities? What government policy is needed to stimulate delivery of intended benefits to the underserved?
Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,,,,
I have provided more questions than answers for the purpose of stimulating debate on the issues surrounding NBN rollout on this Summit. Furthermore I strongly believe that there is no perfect answer or a perfect recipe for rollout of NBN that a country can copy and apply successfully. The debate around NBN rollout is ongoing around the world, and while there are many success stories from government5 around the world, a country should find its own formula based on its market structure, social settings, economic indicators, and the intensity and the geographic spread of its population.
Keeping that in mind, I am pleased to announce that Oman has embarked on its own discovery exercise for the objective of finding the best formula of leapfrogging in the race of Next-Generation National Broadband Network.

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