CAIRO: Egypt announced this week that it would allow the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, ending a ban that had meant that certain mobile phones could not be sold in the country.
The National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) lifted the ban, meaning that now only two countries on earth, Syria and North Korea, still forbid the use of GPS.
In addition to allowing Egyptians greater access to GPS technologies and the products (phones and cars) that provide them, the ruling is expected to spur business in the telecom and auto sectors.
Egyptian traders will now be permitted to import cars and mobile phones that have the technology, and manufacturers in the country will be allowed to make and export those products too. The NTRA, however, will continue to monitor and control manufacturing of the devices. Phones and computers with GPS may only be exported “provided that NTRA authorizes the type of machines based on its criteria and procedures, the NTRA said in a statement on its website Saturday. Despite lifting the ban on GPS, the NTRA said that the use of a similar technology, Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) systems, will only be permitted with its expressed consent. NTRA officials had told Daily News Egypt late last year that the ban on GPS devices was in place as a result of security concerns. Whether those security concerns were overcome or whether the NTRA was simply adapting to the times remains unclear. Egyptians have long used technologies like Google Earth to skirt the ban. In addition, GPS technologies had long bled into Egypt through the black market. The NTRA’s ruling may have been part of an effort to bring the use of GPS into the legal fold so that it might control the use of the technology. There were reports throughout last year that leading mobile phone provider Nokia had been in pitched negotiations with the Egyptian government to allow GPS, which it provides on roughly 40 percent of its phones, but the government wouldn’t budge. GPS was implemented by the US government in 1993 and has since become a popular tool by drivers and mobile phone users alike to navigate the world’s roads and to find places of interest, ranging from restaurants to hospitals. Certain companies have long sought to circumvent the GPS ban, though. Dotmap, for example, is a firm that has used more primitive mapping techniques to provide Egyptian consumers something akin to global positioning. How long it will take GPS providers to begin flooding the market is unclear. But given the interest expressed by a lot of companies to tap into the Arab world’s most populous nation, it would appear that the emergence of the technology will not be far down the road.