DLA Piper Intelligence

Telecommunications
Laws of the World

Overview of legal landscape

UAE - Dubai
UAE - Dubai

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the city of Dubai in particular, is a regional business and, increasingly, a technology hub for international telecommunications and ICT providers interested in the UAE and the wider Gulf region.

Many international telco operators have established branches either 'onshore' in the UAE, or in one of its purpose built 'free zones', such as Dubai Internet City or Dubai Media City. However, these branches are limited in what they can do, particularly within the UAE.  For example, they cannot offer public telecommunications services in the UAE, as the UAE is effectively a closed market, limited by a policy of duopoly.  In order for international operators to provide services to entities in the UAE they will need to do so through contractual arrangements with one or both of the UAE's licensed operators in order to provide 'last mile' services in to the UAE.

Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Overview
UAE - Dubai

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the city of Dubai in particular, is a regional business and, increasingly, a technology hub for international telecommunications and ICT providers interested in the UAE and the wider Gulf region.

Many international telco operators have established branches either 'onshore' in the UAE, or in one of its purpose built 'free zones', such as Dubai Internet City or Dubai Media City. However, these branches are limited in what they can do, particularly within the UAE.  For example, they cannot offer public telecommunications services in the UAE, as the UAE is effectively a closed market, limited by a policy of duopoly.  In order for international operators to provide services to entities in the UAE they will need to do so through contractual arrangements with one or both of the UAE's licensed operators in order to provide 'last mile' services in to the UAE.

Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Laws and regulations

The United Arab Emirates has a Federal Telecommunication Law.

The Telecommunications Law:

  • Establishes a Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA)

  • Requires that a company hold a telecommunications licence in order to provide public telecommunications services and operate public telecommunications networks

  • Makes the provision of unlicensed services punishable by fine or imprisonment

Arabic language prevails, although the TRA's website does publish an English translation of the Telecommunications Law (see here) and Regulations (see here). 

The UAE currently has a policy of a duopoly market for public telecommunications services.

Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Regulatory bodies

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority regulates the telecommunications sector in the UAE.

The TRA's main prerogative is to foster sustainable competition in the UAE's telecommunications sector. The UAE's TRA is also involved in cyber security, and hosts the UAE's Computer Emergency Response Team, as well as managing an ICT development fund.

Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Regulated activities

The UAE's Telecommunications Law defines 'Telecommunications Services' as:

'…the service of transmitting, broadcasting, switching or receiving by means of a Telecommunications Network of any of the following:

  • Wired and wireless telecommunications

  • Voice, music and other sounds

  • Visual images

  • Signals used in radio and TV broadcasting

  • Signals used to operate or control any machinery or apparatus

  • The installation, maintenance, adjustment, repair, replacement, moving or removal of apparatus which is or will be connected to a Public Telecommunications Network

  • The construction maintenance and operation of networks for telegraph, telephone, telex, leased circuits, domestic and international data networks, Internet and Wireless Transmission

  • Any other Telecommunications Services approved by the Board'
Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Registration / licensing

A licence is required from the TRA in order to provide public telecommunications services to and within the UAE.

Currently there are only two operators licensed to provide public telecommunications services to and within the UAE. The TRA is not currently issuing further licences for public telecommunications services or networks.

A number of other licences have been issued to specific entities for specific purposes eg, for certain satellite services and PAMR.

Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Establishment

Only entities that are established pursuant to a decision issued by the TRA Board may hold a licence to provide Public Telecommunications Services within the UAE.  

A number of international telecoms operators have established branch offices within free zones in the UAE in order to market their international services within the UAE, or to act as bases for their regional operations.

Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Interconnection/roaming

The TRA does have powers to issue ex ante regulations and conduct ex post investigations.

The TRA has conducted market reviews and has taken steps to issue ex ante regulation against the licensed operators.

Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Consumer protection

The TRA actively regulates consumer protection and has recently issued a consolidated and updated Consumer Protection Regulation, which can be found here.

Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Taxes and fees

Licensees are required to pay licence fees and royalties.

Certain corporate taxes do apply to 'on shore' entities in the UAE. Many free zones do not charge taxation for a specific period of time.  Each company and individual should assess their tax obligations on a case-by-case basis.

Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Enforcement

Provision of illegal public telecommunications services, including possibly VoIP services, can carry a risk of criminal prosecution, resulting in fines and imprisonment.

The UAE's licensed operators may also take steps to block access to certain services they consider to be in breach of the Telecommunications Laws.

The TRA has taken issue in the past with certain OTT services that were not susceptible to lawful interception.

Last modified 5 Oct 2016
Contacts
Paul Allen
Paul Allen
Partner, Head of Intellectual Property and Technology
T +971 4 438 6100
Eamon Holley
Eamon Holley
Legal Director
T +971 4 438 6100
Last modified 5 Oct 2016