(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) The Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) has proposed a comprehensive draft legislation on 'Access and Interconnection Regulation' (A&I) to open the telecom market for more competition. The draft establishes a set of binding principles and procedures aimed at regulating all A&I services in the sultanate.
The authority has proposed the draft in order to increase competition and remove unnecessary market entry barriers, as well as increasing coverage and boost broadband services, focusing in particular on high-speed broadband and extending coverage to rural areas.
In addition, it wants to prepare suitable conditions to re-allocate spectrum for use by mobile network operators, expand telecom services to wilayats that are not currently served and create a supportive legal and regulatory environment.
The authority has invited stakeholders, interested parties and the public to comment on the draft regulation. The authority will consider the comments, the deadline for which is May 25, when preparing its final draft.
TRA states in its proposal that the development and implementation of an effective A&I regime is central to promoting competition in the telecommunications market. 'The interconnection of networks is critical to the development of competition as it enables one operator or service provider to reach subscribers on another operator's network. As such, the authority considers that all public telecom licensees should be subject to the obligation to interconnect their respective networks to ensure end-to-end connectivity.'
This also holds true for access services. 'Requiring an operator that is in a position of dominance in a relevant market to offer access to its network can help to reduce market entry barriers. This is because investing in some network facilities may be very costly or very difficult to undertake. The duplication of costs also mean that it becomes commercially unviable from an economic point of view. As a result, not requiring access may limit the emergence of competition in retail markets,' states TRA.
Some A&I services are already in use in the sultanate to support the provision of telecom services to end customers. However, many policy, commercial and technological developments have recently taken place in the country, like the preparation of new guidelines by TRA on Market Definition, Dominant Licensee and Remedies (MDD), the potential creation of a separate national broadband company and growing importance of Internet access and local content to consumers and the society.
'As a result, the authority is now seeking to review the rules and regulations governing the provision of A&I services and to develop a single regulation governing the provision of all A&I services, including those provided by dominant and non-dominant operators,' said the authority.
In MDD, the authority found both Omantel and Nawras to be dominant in many operating fields and thus requires them to provide A&I services in these areas on regulated terms and conditions to all eligible parties requesting such services. The mandatory provision of interconnection and, in certain cases, access, is a common requirement in regulated telecommunication markets internationally.
'Indeed, the creation of a sustainable and effective A&I regime is critical to the development of a competitive market. This, in turn, can lead to improved consumer outcomes through lower prices and the availability of a greater selection of services to consumers,' said the authority.