Communications always play an important role in our daily lives, specifically in force majeure events such as epidemics, where reducing social and physical communication is an essential act to prevent the pandemic's outbreak, as is the case in light of the coronavirus, whereby telecommunication occupied a significant portion of our daily dealings and interactions-being one of the most secure ways to ensure the permanence of business, and life connections- as relying on communication during the coronavirus epidemic has contributed to reducing the risks of the spread of the epidemic.
This article aims to shed some light on the Telecommunication Regulatory Law in Egypt since telecommunication is one of the most crucial elements that keep people communicated, connected, and linked to both life and one another.
An Overview of the Telecommunication Law of Egypt
The Egyptian Telecommunication Regulatory Law No. 10 of 2003 has been enacted to regulate the telecommunication network and services.
"The provisions of the accompanying law shall apply to regulate all types of communications, except for what is excluded by a special provision therein or in any other law, or required by the rule of law in consideration of national security, and every provision that contradicts the provisions of the accompanying law shall be repealed". (Article 1 of Law No. 10/2003)
The enacted law strives to guarantee the proper use of the radio spectrum as well as regulate telecommunication services throughout the whole country, including the remote regions.
Pursuant to the definitions stipulated in the aforementioned Law, communications are any means of transmitting or receiving signs, signals, messages, writings, images, or sounds, of whatsoever nature, whether through wired or wireless communication.
Chapters of the said Law have stipulated the following under their provisions:
- General Rules;
- National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority;
- Radio Spectrum Management and licensing its use;
- Egyptian Telecom Company
- National Security and General Mobilization; and
Based on the foregoing, the said law has been issued to cover the following:
- In Respect to The Regulatory Agency regulating the telecom industry in Egypt and its role:
The National Telecom Regulatory Authority, or "NTRA," is the main regulatory body; the authority has a public juristic personality and is subordinate to the Minister of Communications and Information Technology (being the competent Minister).
The NTRA is the sole governmental body authorized to grant licenses and permits necessary for setting up and running any activities or operations in connection with the telecommunications sector. It also has the power to monitor all the activities operating in telecommunications sector.
The NTRA shall aim to regulate the Telecommunication Service and to enhance and deploy services in compliance with the most advanced technology means satisfying the Users' needs at the most appropriate prices, and encourage national and international investment in this field within free competition rules, in particularly the following:
- Guaranteeing the provision of Telecommunication Services to all regions of the Republic including economic and development regions as well as urban, rural and remote areas.
- Protecting National Security and the State top interests
- Guaranteeing the optimum usage of the Frequency Spectrum and increasing its returns according to the provisions of the abovementioned Law.
- Guaranteeing the compliance of the effective international agreements in force, and the resolutions issued by international and regional organizations related to telecommunications which are approved by the State.
- Monitoring the implementation of technical and economic efficiency programs for the various telecommunication services.
With Regard to Licenses and Permits
Pursuant to the provisions of the Telecommunication Law and the implementing decisions thereof, it is forbidden to establish or operate a Telecommunications Network, provide Telecommunication services to others, by-pass international telephone calls or, advertise any of those activities without first obtaining a license from the NTRA.
Whereas, an application to obtain the said license shall be submitted to the NTRA on the forms set by the latter, accompanied by the data and documents it determines, especially those proving the technical and financial capability of the applicant. Moreover, the application must include the proposed basis for pricing the service and the method of its calculation. The NTRA decides on the application within 90 days from the date the applicant fulfills all the data and documents requested from him, otherwise, the application shall be deemed to have been rejected.
The issued license specifies the licensee's obligations, which include in particular the following:
- The type of service and technology used.
- Duration of the license.
- Geographical boundaries for service provision, wire and wireless coverage plan, and implementation phases.
- Measures of service quality and efficiency.
- Commitment to continue providing the service and the procedures to be followed in the event of interruption or suspension of the service.
- Determining the price of the service and methods of collection, and the obligation to announce that.
- Provide the service to the public without discrimination.
- Commitment to the national numbering system set by the Agency.
- Considerateness of the requirements of the comprehensive service.
- Providing relief and emergency communication services free of charge and providing the guide service, all in accordance with the type of licensed service.
- Obligations not to prejudice national security.
- Obligations related to technical rules related to health, environmental, planning and construction safety that must be followed in accordance with the standards that are set in agreement with the ministries and concerned authorities in the country.
- Contribute to scientific research and training.
- Commitment to what the agency determines in return for the burdens it bears in order to verify that the licensee has fulfilled his obligations, as well as financial insurance and all periodic dues
- Provide the information and data required by the Agency related to the subject matter of the license.
- Fulfilling financial penalties and compensation.
- Providing services under the rules of free competition.
- Establishing a system for receiving and investigating complaints and repairing faults efficiently.
- Guaranteeing confidentiality of Telecommunications as well as for licensees' customer's calls and setting rules to ensure such confidentiality.
Furthermore, the Law did not neglect to explicitly establish a prohibition against waiving or transferring any issued licenses without first granted the approval of the NTRA, where Article 31 of the mentioned Law Stipulates: "In all cases, the licensee may not assign to a third party the license issued to him to establish or operate networks or provide telecommunications services, except after obtaining a prior approval from the NTRA in accordance with the conditions specified by the Board of Directors."
The licensee who is to establish a Telecommunication Network shall also be permitted under this law to lay cables or install overhead wires, to erect poles, towers or to make installations nearby roads, streets, public squares, or waterways and railway, after obtaining the necessary approvals and licenses, and permits from the armed forces and the concerned authorities, with due consideration to the environmental and health standards and requirements prior to starting such installations, however, the licensee under the mentioned law shall also be committed to take all necessary precautions for protecting existing establishments and facilities while constructing, maintaining or modifying the network. The Licensee shall also be obliged to restore things to its original state at his own expense and to pay appropriate compensation for any damage or destruction caused to these establishments or facilities.
It is prohibited to import, manufacture, assemble, possess, use, operate, install or market any telecommunications equipment except after obtaining a permit to do so from the NTRA, in accordance with the standards, specifications and types of equipment approved by the NTRA.
The prior consent of the Armed Forces, the National Security Authority and the Ministry of Interior shall be obtained before importing, manufacturing, assembling, possessing or using such equipment for the NTRA's favor or before it grants authorizations to the units of the administrative authorities of the State including ministries, authorities, municipal administrative units and organizations, entities, companies of all types, individuals and others.
Similar to the above-mentioned license, permits required before importing, manufacturing, assembling, possessing, using, operating, installing or marketing any Telecommunication Equipment shall be issued within 90 days from the date of filing the application along with submitting all the necessary documents.
- Moving to chapter four of the abovementioned Law where it regulates the Frequency/Radio Spectrum Management and Usage Licensing:
Whereas, Frequency/Radio spectrum is one of the State's national resources and is used in many applications, most importantly wireless communication, it is the fuel that drives the various applications, systems, and wireless networks that are directly connected to all daily activities, including advanced and intelligent wireless systems and applications in various facilities and public sector, such as private mobile systems, public mobile phone services, fixed wireless systems, television and radio broadcasting services, public safety and emergency services, and many other applications, services, and activities. (As mentioned on the NTRA website)
The NTRA is also the regulatory body in charge of organizing and managing all affairs related to its use in compliance with the provisions of the said Law, consequently, it is prohibited to use it without first obtaining a license from the NTRA. The aforementioned license shall be issued within 90 days from the date of submission of all the necessary documents with due consideration to the requirements of the Armed Forces and National Security Entities.
After issuing the license, the licensee shall be committed to using the Frequency/Radio Spectrum within the parameters outlined in the issued license, otherwise, the NTRA shall be entitled to revoke the issued License.
Similar to the Telecommunication License, waiving the Frequency Usage License to a third party may not take place unless obtaining the NTRA's prior approval.
- Shifting to Chapter five of the Egyptian Telecommunication Law where it presents a brief on the Egyptian Company for Telecommunication ( Telecom Egypt):
The provisions of this chapter stated the exclusive right of Telecom Egypt to establish, operate and exploit international transmission networks between Egypt and any other country through international gateways via submarine and terrestrial cables, microwave links, and satellites for fixed services and provide Telephone, Fax, Telex, and Telegraph Services over such networks, provided however all abovementioned shall not be done unless obtaining a License from the NTRA. The NTRA Board of Directors shall be entitled to issue a resolution enabling Telecom Egypt to exclusively perform some other activities and services which are being carried out only by Telecom Egypt at the date of applying the present Law. The capital of the company shall be divided into equal nominal shares and the Company Statute shall determine the nominal value of each share, provided that it shall not be less than ten pounds and shall not exceed one thousand pounds.
- Concerning Chapter Six:" National security and General Mobilization":
This Chapter presented that Operators, Providers, and Users of Telecommunication Services are prohibited from using Telecommunication Services encryption equipment unless they have received written permission from the NTRA, the Armed Forces, and National Security Entities (excluding encryption equipment used in radio and television broadcasting).
With due consideration to inviolability of citizens private life as protected by law, each Operator and Provider shall, at his own expense, provide within the telecommunication networks licensed to him all technical potentials including equipment, systems, software and communication which enable the Armed Forces, and National Security Entities to exercise their powers within the law. The provision of the service shall synchronize in time with the availability of required technical potentials. Telecommunication Service Providers and Operators and their marketing agents shall have the right to collect accurate information and data concerning Users from individuals and various entities within the State.
Finally, the Telecommunication Law has been enacted to guarantee the provision of a Telecommunication services that comply with the following standards:
- Publicity of information
- Protection of free competition
- Provision of Universal Service
- Protection of Users' rights
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.