Press Release

Press Release

Policy & Technology Innovation, Spectrum Harmonization, Economies-of-Scale, Digital Integrity & Human Respect Central to Building the Middle East's Digital Economy

UAE - May 16, 2017: With the official patronage of the United Arab Emirates' Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA), the South Asia - Middle East - North Africa (SAMENA) region’s change-makers' annual leadership event, the SAMENA Telecommunications Council's Leaders' Summit 2018 —hosted for the fifth consecutive year by Huawei Technologies and co-Sponsored by Ericsson, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (Du), Alfa (managed by Orascom TMT), Sudatel Group, Numbase Group and Airspan — underpinned the importance of enabling Telecom Operators and Regulatory Authorities to collaborate and co-operate with each other to achieve mutual successes in this age of Artificial Intelligence.

In his welcome note, CEO & Board Member of SAMENA Council, Mr. Bocar BA, referred to Leaders' Summit 2018 and the focus on "Building the Middle East's Digital Economy" as an accumulation of earlier efforts to look into the future, and how data-driven economics is shaping up and will impact our future decisions with regard to policies, investments, and stakeholder collaboration, to ensure that good governance, privacy of data and human well-being, as well as sustainability of the business are realized. While Telecom Operators and other digital ecosystem players, including Regulators, seek the digital communications ecosystem's sustainability, focusing on digital services, data regulation, spectrum resources, and addressing challenges relating to financial obligations and excessive industry fees, among other factors, could help steer the Industry toward a new positive and growth-oriented direction; a direction that leads toward building a sustainable digital economy in the region.

TRA-UAE, represented by H.E. Hamad Al Mansoori, Director General, acknowledged SAMENA Council's ongoing efforts with the TRA over the past five years, including on the TRA's region-wide endeavors to accelerate the next-generation of technology development and empowered stakeholder collaboration in the region.

At a time when regional efforts are required for the harmonization of spectrum for 5G development, on setting rules for ensuring data privacy, developing cross-border agreements on the flow and management of data, and to align national digital transformation priorities; and as the Industry explores revenue and growth potential in new verticals, it has become essential that Telecom Operators be enabled by Regulators to overcome constraints, especially with respect to cross-border data flows, favorable taxation policies, reduction in capital and operational expenditure, spectrum license durations and costs, among other impediments.

Likewise, it is now critical for Operators to seek partnerships with Regulators to help fulfill national ICT visions, assist in organically generating revenues for the governments, and help ensure end-user's digital privacy and overall digital integrity in the cyberspace. The imperative for Operators to learn lessons from the past and to team up across borders and develop own digital services across adjacent economic sectors is too becoming essential to thriving in the digital ecosystem.

ITU, represented by Director BDT, Mr. Brahima Sanou, drew attention to making sustainability a core focus area, and reiterated the need to think about new possibilities that exist in Health, Education, and other important sectors, where significant opportunities abound.

Huawei Technologies ME's President - Mr. Charles Yang, GSMA's Director General - Mr. Mats Granryd, and SAMENA Council's Chairman of the Board - Eng. Nasser Al Nasser reflected on how the future is becoming transformational and how preparation for 5G roll-out paradigm shift, which may transpire in multiple phases, and quantum-computing capability are paving the path for AI and an utterly new generation of digital experiences. Eng. Nasser referred to Telecom Operators as the enablers of the digital economy, and how Operators are continually monitoring their pace and progress with respect to disruptive advancements, new dynamics of the markets, national aspirations, and to globally agreed goals among nations, to help materialize a sustainable digital economy.

Congregation and active participation of leaders, change-makers, and influencers from within the telecommunications industry across all SAMENA regional markets, East & West Africa, Asia Pacific, East & West Europe, and North America ensured that perspectives exchanged during Leaders' Summit 2018 would serve the Industry in planning during the course of the year, as developmental efforts to bring 5G into the SAMENA region, prospectively as the first adopter in the world, accelerate.

The Leaders' Summit 2018's Guest of Honor, the UAE's Minister of Tolerance, HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, emphasized to stakeholders of the digital communications industry that Leaders' Summit 2018 was an especially significant event as it reflected on the efforts that each stakeholder is exerting in order to positively impact the society. As digital technology accelerates globalization, new dimensions in the link between Tolerance and Telecommunications have emerged. The Industry thus must ensure that tolerance, truthfulness, and integrity prevail as "Digital life is life of truth."

Renowned regional CEOs, public and private-sector leaders, industry experts, and distinguished guests from the ICT domain and beyond, and world-renowned personalities within the digital communications industry participated in the Leaders' Summit. Core discussions of the Summit focused on understanding the dimensions of a sustainable regional digital economy in view of the Middle East's preparation toward 5G, digital development goals, and conducting a preparatory stakeholder dialogue to address complexities of the regulatory environment in the wake of advancements in networks and new digital platforms.

Industry stakeholders, including leaders representing STC Group, Batelco Group, Zain Group, Orange, Viva Kuwait, Etisalat Group, du, Alfa, Sudatel, Omantel, GSMA, TRA-UAE, CITC, TRA-Oman, TRC-Jordan, Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, Google, Facebook, ESOA, Eutelsat, and Members of SAMENA Council, among others, also took part in exclusive bi-lateral stakeholder meetings, organized by SAMENA Council on a "by-invitation-only" basis to showcase SAMENA Council's collaboration with regional regulators; to present SAMENA Council's work on 5G development; and to see how digital service ecosystem and services are evolving, and would prove to be integral to building the regional digital economy.

Moderators and speakers of the Summit included:

Mr. Bahjat El-Darwiche - Strategy&, Mr. Olaf Acker – PWC, H.E. Shaikh Nasser Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa - TRA Bahrain, Dr. Ahmed Alsohaily – CITC, Eng. Atef Helmy – Orange Group, Mr. Osman Sultan – Du (EITC), Mr. Scott Gegenheimer – Zain Group, Mr. Nadir Mohammed – World Bank, Mr. Chaobin Yang – Huawei, Mr. Indranil Das – Ericsson, Mr. Tony Poulos - Disruptive Asia, Mr. Paul Senior – Dense Air, Mr. Stephen Spengler - Intelsat, Mr. Robert Middlehurst – Etisalat International, Dr. Saoud AL-Shoaili – MOTC Oman, Mr. Fadi Nasser - Omantel, Dr. Robert Pepper - Facebook, Mr. Karan Ponnudurai - Batelco Group. Mr. Joe Barrett- GSA, Mr. Wang Hua – China Mobile Pakistan.

Expressing his satisfaction on the successful congregation and dialogue among leaders, who participated in the Leaders' Summit 2018 from all around the world, Mr. Bocar BA, CEO & Board Member of SAMENA Council stated, "It was highly merited to delve into building the digital economy of the Middle East from multiple dimensions; some expertly brought into our attention by the Leaders and Excellencies who were an integral part of this year's successful leadership gathering. In doing so, we have recognized the leadership efforts of Dr. Khaled H. Biyari, former Chairman of SAMENA Council, for Industry Representation & International Co-operation Building, and of Mr. Osman Sultan, CEO of du, for his visible contributions to Telco Digital Transformation." Mr. BA also congratulated Huawei, Ericsson, du, Alfa Mobile, Sudatel, Numbase Group and Airspan for making Leaders' Summit 2018 physically possible and for enabling SAMENA Council to provide its traditional, world-class atmosphere for discussion to its Leaders and esteemed participants of the Leaders' Summit 2018.

The SAMENA Leaders’ Summit is an annual, discussion-centric private and government sector leaders' gathering, composed of various bi-lateral meetings held among stakeholders in a world-class setting. Its aim is to create a sense of stakeholder enablement and to make progress toward true transformation within the Industry, to help align digital development priorities and harmonize regional efforts in fostering sustainable investments in digitization across the region, driven by Telecom Operators.

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About SAMENA Telecommunications Council

SAMENA Telecommunications Council is South Asia - Middle East - North Africa (SAMENA) region’s premier industry association of telecom operators and service providers. SAMENA Council voices network operators’ issues and needs to regulators, policymakers, and international institutions. The most renowned regional telecom operators, including Saudi Telecom, Etisalat, Batelco Group, du, Viva Kuwait, Orange - MEA, Zain Group, Telecom Egypt, Sudatel, Omantel, and Alfa (managed by Orascom TMT), among other leading operators and technology companies, are a part of the Council’s membership. SAMENA Council is a sector development partner to the private and the public sectors, and empowers stakeholders to communicate together and addressing the most pressing industry issues, in order to help create a sustainable business environment for the industry, and to accelerate digital development in regional economies.

As an international non-profit organization, SAMENA Council is contributing to the understanding of cross-stakeholder priorities within the public and the private sectors. The Council has created a unique regional position as the regulatory reach and operator advocacy organization, promoting institution-level engagements with leading private and public-sector organizations.

SAMENA Council was founded in 2006. In February 2018 in Barcelona, Saudi Telecom Company, represented by Eng. Nasser Al Nasser as its GCEO, was re-elected to chair the Board of Directors of SAMENA Council.