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SYRIA

  • "Siria: nuova legge sulle telecomunicazioni" [Syria: new law on telecommunications] by Alessandro Bacci, DAO Online, 27 August 2010, in Italian. Translated excerpts: Law 18/2010 - issued by presidential decree on June 23 and then published in the Official Syrian Gazette - reorganized the Syrian telecom sector. The law created a new institution, the Telecommunications Supervisory Authorities (TSA) to regulate the telecommunications sector. Before this reorganization, the authority to regulate the sector belonged to STE, the Syrian Telecommunication Establishment, which was also the national network operator. Under the new structure, STE will be replaced by the new Syrian Telecommunication Company (STC), which will continue to operate as a company with a legal monopoly on landline communication. However, splitting STE into two entities - STC and TSA - should make it easier to reform the telecom sector: to increase competition and ensure the rights of consumers. The current lack of competition produces high prices, poor service, and thus limited subscribership. The new law is innovative in being designed to reduce government involvement in a strategic industry, increasing the role of private firms in a sector that had been 100% state controlled. The members of the TSA board will be appointed by the Ministry of Communications and Technology, which will begin implementing the new features of the law in 2011. TSA will have the power to grant new licenses, establish rates and define the manner of operation of the various sub-sectors, including radio. Until mid-2009, the two existing mobile operators, Siriatel and MTN, had to give STE 50% of their annual revenue, under the terms of their operating agreement, which also denied Siriatel and MTN the right to have their shares traded on the Damascus stock exchange.
  • "When a New Licensing Regime for Mobile Operators in Syria?" by Alessandro Bacci, DAO Online, 12 June 2010, in English: "...Syria has currently the most regulated telecoms sector in the Middle East and it is also one of the least developed... The Strategy Paper 2007-2013 Syrian Arab Republic published under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) explains that the [EU's Telecom Sector Support Program, which contributed 10 billion euros to Syria between 2002 and 2006] produced a restructuring plan for Syrian Telecom [that] 'will pave the way for its corporatization and for the creation of an independent regulator in the telecommunications sector'... [In] 2001, the Syrian government decided to award the first 15-year build, operate and transfer (BOT) GSM license to two operators of existing pilot projects. The first operator was Syriatel that at that time was a joint-venture 25% owned by the Egyptian Orascom Telecom Holding (OT) and 75% held by different Syrian investors (Drex). The second BOT license was awarded to a Lebanese-Syrian joint-venture called Investcom [which in 2006] merged with MTN South Africa [to create] one of the biggest telecom group in the emerging market of Africa and Middle East... The BOT license needed an initial payment of frequency fees of $20 million for the GSM 900 Mhz network with an additional $15 million to permit the operator to use the GSM 1800 Mhz frequency bands. The BOT contracts were also defining a revenue sharing agreement according to which the companies were bound to pay royalties for 30% of revenues for the first three years, moving to 40% for the second three-year period and then paying 50% of revenues from the seventh year of the BTO contract [through to 2016]... Syriatel and MTN claim that given all the cost and taxes they have there are no resources for investments targeted at adding further capacity and service upgrades. The result is that the two companies Syriatel and MTN Syria charge the same amount for calls and messages, plus they provide exactly the identical services with a perfect coordination so that it does not exist also in the mobile sector (like for landlines) any kind of competition..."
  • "The Syrian Internet market currently has two main service providers: The Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE) and the Syrian Computer Society (SCS- Net). The SCS net started actual operation and service provision in August 2000 to segments that were not served by STE at that time. In April 2005, it obtained an ISP license and currently provides Internet services to the public and is no longer restricted to certain segments of the market. However, it still does not use the infrastructure of the PDN project. The Internet market became a bit more competitive in 2005, as Best Italia Holding obtained a license and started providing satellite Internet services in January 2005. Another two providers have obtained licenses to provide Satellite Internet services... STE owns the Internet and datacomm backbone and the international backbone. The STE is expected to remain the monopoly operator for datacomm services through 2010..." --"Syria's Internet market: Brighter times ahead," press release from the Arab Advisors Group, 10 July 2005.
  • From Syria's answers to an ITU questionnaire on national frequency management (2002): "What legal or regulatory texts govern your national spectrum management processes? Law No. 451 dated 1957 Are any actions planned to change these legal texts or regulations? YES ...Has there been any spectrum redeployment in your country or has a need for spectrum redeployment been identified? NO..."

Middle East - Regional Overview