In a first, AT&T joins a telecommunications council based in Dubai

AT&T is the first U.S. telco to join The SAMENA Telecommunications Council, headquartered in Dubai. (Getty Images)

AT&T became the first North American telecom operator to join the SAMENA Telecommunications Council. The council focuses on a wide range of telecommunications issues in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Cooperation on digital content issues is one of the goals SAMENA has for its relationship with AT&T.

The SAMENA Telecommunications Council, which is headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is comprised of regional, European and south Asia-Pacific operators, service providers and technology companies. Its goal is to create synergies among local, regional and international operators on digital content development, 5G development and deployment, cross-border data flows, digital economy, artificial intelligence and IoT.

"AT&T is well known as a world-leading customer-centric communications service provider," SAMENA CEO and board member Bocar Ba said in a press release. "AT&T is a modern media company that brings together premium content, direct to consumer relationships, advertising technology and high-speed networks to deliver a unique customer experience."

SAMENA positions itself as an enabler for different stakeholders as they attempt to develop and introduce digital services. It seeks to help these players deal with data regulation, harmonize operator approaches to spectrum management and alert regulators to fees and taxes that its members deem to be excessive. Operator council members include Saudi Telecom, Etisalat, Batelco Group, du, Viva Kuwait, Orange - MEA, Zain Group, Telecom Egypt, Sudatel, Omantel and Alfa. Non-operator companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Accenture also are members.

The group says that it aims to pursue policies and regulations that are flexible and technology-neutral to enable digital transformation, to create smart environments and to offer digital services. SAMENA says that the region it represents is home to 13% of the world's population and almost a billion mobile subscriptions. More than $300 billion has been invested in telecom in the region, the SAMENA Council says.

SAMENA’s five working groups focus on digital services, data regulation, spectrum management, industry fees and satellite and subsea issues. The latter aims to encourage cooperation between nonterrestrial and terrestrial operators.