Egypt Lifts GPS Ban

 As cited in the blog Ogle Earth on April 19, 2009:

Egypt lifts GPS ban

By Theodore May
First Published: April 6, 2009

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.

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