Jordan’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry is seeking an international consultant to advise on rewriting the country’s telecoms law.

Speaking to MEED, ICT Minister Marwan Juma said that he expects to issue in July a tender for the consultancy contract to advise on an update of the law, which is needed to enable Amman’s regulator to keep pace with changes in the sector brought about by large-capacity broadband mobile technology.

The review will take about four months, with the … draft law to go before the cabinet by the end of 2010

Marwan Juma, ICT minister

Juma says that he expects the review to take about four months, with the Ministry’s draft law to go before the cabinet by the end of 2010.

If approved by the cabinet, the law will then go before parliament and, if passed, to King Abdullah for assent. Juma says that he is confident to have the new law in place “sometime in 2011”.

The telecoms sector is undergoing a significant period of change, as telecoms operators use broadband capacity to expand their mobile services beyond the current voice-only services. With many of the region’s mobile markets for voice-only services near saturation, telecoms operators are using broadband mobile services to expand into digital data-driven services such as mobile television, mobile commerce, gaming and social networking.

But the development of these services through downloadable applications or ‘apps’, is creating a convergence between the telcoms industry and other sectors such as media and banking that existing telecoms regulations are not designed to cover.

For Amman, which has placed ICT at the core of its economic plans, and which is seeking to become an ICT services hub for the region, it is imperative to have structures in place that are capable of regulating these changes.

“We have a good law in place, so we are not starting from scratch” says Juma. “But all laws need to serve at least a five-year period. In the telecoms sector we have the issues  being created by the convergence in fixed and mobile telephony. The planned new law is also aimed at giving the regulator (the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority) more teeth. We have an independent regulator, which can make enforcement difficult, especially when dealing with an incumbant operators. For example, the fines avaialble to the regulator are relatively small. The TRC (Telecommunications Regulatory Commission) does not have enough teeth. It needs teeth. With more teeth, such as heavier fines, the regulator can do more.”

Juma was speaking to MEED on the sidelines of the Arab Advisors Group Telecommunications and Media Convergence Conference 2010 in Amman.