The TRA expects VoIP to be a service demanded by consumers in the future. The move is seen as in line with current global trends. The TRA had earlier instructed Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat)to block any websites that provide VoIP services, amid security concerns and fears that the free-riding nature of technology could lead to a lack of investment in infrastructure.

Sources at the TRA also stressed that the federation’s second operator would be unveiled by December. The Supreme Committee is finalising the regulatory framework for competition between operators. The licence had been expected to be officially awarded in June, but was held up due to restructuring at the TRA.

The second operator, which is expected to begin functioning in the second quarter of 2006, will be 40 per cent owned by the General Pensions & Social Security Authority and unnamed private investors. The remaining 60 per cent of the company’s $1,100 million capital will be earmarked for the private sector and an initial public offering (IPO).

The TRA also announced on 27 September details of a new fund aimed at developing information and communication technology (ICT) across the federation. The ICT development fund will focus on fostering research and development in the industry, encouraging capacity building, improving education and training in ICT and sponsoring and organising events related to the industry.

The fund will receive 1 per cent of revenues from primary licensed operators as well as grants from the public and private sector.