SAMENA Telecommunications Council, presenting its views and recommendations during the ITU and CITC collaborated “Radio Spectrum for IMT-2020 and Beyond: Fostering Commercial and Innovative Use” event, emphasized on adopting spectrum management approaches in the larger interest of the Industry and sustainability of digitization efforts in the long run. The discussions of the ITU-CITC webinar focused on future-oriented spectrum policy development to ensure business certainty and investment, exploring the future potential of 5G, vehicular communication systems, unlicensed wireless technologies, satellite communications, and other developments emerging within the ICT sector. The webinar also stressed on the need for multilateral cooperation in spectrum management, allocation, and harmonization in line with the ITU’s standards and guidelines.
SAMENA Council, represented by Bocar BA, CEO & Board Member, delivered a keynote message, reiterating how innovative and effective policy and regulatory solutions and enabling measures, which have been key to setting the foundations for digital transformation, remain absolutely essential to building a sustainable digital future and a sustainable digital economy. Creating a harmonized spectrum environment through enabling practices, which should incentivize innovation, foster healthy competition and regulatory stability, is a challenge that requires, one, the management of high data growth with additional and/or more efficient use of existing spectrum; two, bringing unlicensed and/or shared spectrum usage to the equation; and, three, utilizing 4G spectrum to drive 5G. Moreover, hybrid solutions for the provision of connectivity, especially through cooperation with Terrestrial and Satellite players, should also be explored. Such collaboration may boost fulfillment of SDG 9 by accelerating resilient rural broadband infrastructure, quality of service, and industrialization.
Bocar BA stated: "As a national asset and scarce national resource, spectrum needs to be managed to optimize returns to the government while ensuring it contributes an equal, if not more, value to the overall national economy. The future of connectivity is pointing to the likelihood that more spectrum for both licensed and unlicensed services will indeed be needed. To tread the next decade, we need to enshrine affordability of Spectrum into national ICT policies and address the issue of license fees, opening up multiple spectrum bands, and extending duration of licenses for Operators. It is a pleasure for SAMENA Council to be a part of the CITC's endeavors in developing a five-year spectrum roadmap for commercial and innovative use, and to make more than 10 GHz of spectrum available in Saudi Arabia for innovative uses by 2024. This is a very progressive regulatory enablement step for Operators, and it will set a new precedence in the SA-ME-NA region."
Drawing the attention of the regional Policymakers and Regulators on key considerations, SAMENA Council mentioned a string of efforts throughout the year 2020, including the Leaders' Summit 2020 and the ITU's recent Private Sector and Ministerial Roundtables, during which collaboration between the Private Sector and Governments was pressed upon to achieve nation-specific as well as global milestones of achieving Universal Digital Access and to accelerate the pace of digital development and overcoming digital divides by encourage cross-industry collaboration. As spectrum is crucial in this regard, SAMENA Council re-emphasized on the need to (1) do more of what has worked well throughout the COVID-19 crisis, (2) consider temporary spectrum awards during Covid times for permanent allocation, (3) think beyond short-term revenue-generation from spectrum awards, (4) address spectrum needs of both Terrestrial and Satellite Operators, (5) rethink taxation and license fees, (6) award as much contiguous spectrum as possible, (7) prioritize the release of unallocated portions of 600 MHz, 700 MHz and 800 MHz spectrum; and release of 3.8 – 4.2 GHz frequencies, (8) consider deferred payment facility and extension of spectrum licenses to 25 years, and (9) promptly tackle spectrum interference issues within the SA-ME-NA region.
Through meaningful collaboration with the Private sector, the Policymakers need to promote innovation in the commercial use of spectrum, by increasing access through both licensed and unlicensed approaches, and by ensuring that spectrum management practices account for competitive dimensions of the future and tackle the challenges facing 5G+ deployment. Each country of the SA-ME-NA region must position itself among the leading nations in unlocking innovative high-performance use cases, and this first requires ensuring access to spectrum resources, fostering advancement of other ICT infrastructure such as through Fiber proliferation and Cloud adoption, and to enable digital-driven use cases that can contribute to sustainable growth of the region's digital economy.
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