The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) in the UAE, has acquired rights to 225 digital channels at the recently concluded ITU Regional Radio Communication Conference (RRC) held in Geneva from May 15th – June 16th, 2006. Tariq Abdulkarim Al Awadhi, Director of Spectrum Management, chaired the UAE's delegation attending the conference, which comprised of members from the TRA, Emirates Media, Dubai Media, and Sharjah TV.
The month-long conference was aimed at facilitating the transition from analogue media broadcasting to digital. The conference organised channel allocation among participating countries, based on a newly formulated digital terrestrial TV broadcasting plan.
Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, Director General of the TRA said, "The UAE team has acquired 225 digital terrestrial TV channels out of the 236 present in the UHF and VHF bands. The TRA has authority on these channels, and we will soon issue regulatory lists to start giving licenses for channels use.”
“The UAE will undergo tremendous change and growth in the field of TV and radio transmission in the coming few years so that people can watch the terrestrial channels' TV programs either at home or through their PDAs . In order to accelerate and facilitate the change, TRA is putting in place regulations that are in line with international guidelines in the field,” Al Ghanim added.
Al Awadhi said, "The team representing the UAE has acquired 225 digital channels, whish is around 95.3% of the 236 digital channels it had initially requested from the ITU. And the reason why the TRA did not get them all is that the rest of the channels might interfere with the neighboring countries. We are now preparing a list of regulations to start licensing and using these digital channels in the country. The UAE team has gained broad-based experience through its presence at the conference, and it fully participated in negotiation sessions for channel allocation and discussions aimed at improving the new treaty. The team also has contributed to the coordination procedures with the neighboring countries in order to gain the maximum number of regionally designated digital channels.”
Country Number of channels Percentage
UAE 225 95.3%
Bahrain 55 87.3%
KSA 1195 98.1%
Qatar 65 100%
Oman 1156 100%
Kuwait 47 78.3%
Iraq 690 87%
Republic of Yemen 977 99.5%
Islamic Republic of Iran 2241 96.4%
At the conference, the UAE acquired several leading positions in the conference, and assumed responsibility for chairing one of the negotiating teams, vice-chairing the special team for a new regional treaty and also vice-chairing a special team dedicated to revising the previous agreement.
Prior to the conference, the TRA had organized several local preparatory meetings to reschedule UAE's digital broadcasting channels in the 174-230 MHZ and 470-862 MHZ frequency bands through advanced software programs used for regulating the broadcasting spectrum according to digital maps of the country. The TRA also organized regional congresses with neighboring countries (GCC, Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, and the Republic of Yemen) to ensure a united front on broadcasting.
The UAE is expected to transit to digital terrestrial broadcasting system within two years as part of an overall strategy to enhance the telecommunications sector in the country, and the TRA will be in charge of ensuring a smooth and successful transition to the new broadcasting paradigm.
A key issue at the conference was the protection of analogue terrestrial broadcasting from digital interference until the year 2015 to ease the transition between the technologies. All conference participants signed a new treaty outlining terrestrial TV channels provision.