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Kuwait’s parliament approves bill to create telecom regulator

KUWAIT: Kuwait’s parliament approved a bill to create an independent telecom regulator Tuesday, which should end a conflict of interest as the Communications Ministry currently regulates the industry and operates the fixed-line network.

It was not clear, though, what the new regulator’s powers would be or what impact it might have on the country’s four major Internet service providers or its three mobile operators, Zain, Saudi Telecom Co. affiliate Viva and Wataniya, a subsidiary of Qatar’s Ooredoo.

Kuwait is the only Gulf Arab country without a telecom regulator, and the creation of such a body may indicate the government will revive plans to privatize the fixed network, which has been under consideration for more than 20 years.

Market participants such as Internet service provider Qualitynet have complained that state control of the fixed network has left Kuwait lagging behind its Gulf peers.

As of July 2012, Kuwait’s Internet connection speed was a little over a third of the UAE’s, according to Business Monitor International.

Many Kuwait residents have opted for mobile broadband instead.

The creation of an independent regulator still requires the ruling emir’s approval, although that is considered a formality, and would end about a decade of debate and indecision over the establishment of a telecom watchdog.

Kuwait relies largely on aging copper networks for fixed telecoms services. It has fallen behind Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, whose government-linked telecoms have invested heavily in fiber-to-the-home.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 02, 2014, on page 5.

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