Lesley Walker / Doha News
Qatar’s largest telecom provider has damaged the country’s economic development and driven up prices for consumers by engaging in “anti-competitive” conduct, the nation’s communications watchdog has said.
In a strongly-worded formal decision issued this month, the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has censured Ooredoo for not giving rival firms access to its infrastructure.
The regulator said the telecom provider’s actions have negatively affected the state-owned Qatar National Broadband Network (QNBN) and Vodafone.
By refusing to allow these groups access to its ducts, Ooredoo “prevented development of competition,” the CRA ruled in a 41-page order.
“In doing so, Ooredoo is likely to have maintained artificially high prices for consumers,” the CRA added.
For the past five years, QNBN has been working to install a comprehensive fiber network for high-speed internet across the country, but is making slow progress.
The infrastructure is for use by any telecom provider in Qatar, but would most benefit Vodafone, as Ooredoo has already laid much of its own network.
In 2013, a QNBN spokesperson told Doha News that talks were ongoing about compensating Ooredoo for use of its infrastructure.
At the time, he added that if QNBN had control of the network, both Ooredoo and Vodafone would then be free to “focus on what they do best – providing service, innovation, and customer care.”
A year later however, QNBN entered talks to be acquired by Vodafone, but the deal fell through suddenly.
It appears that despite being told to do so in 2013, Ooredoo is not granting the necessary access to Vodafone or QNBN, which lodged a complaint in March this year.
It claimed that Ooredoo was, for the second time, not allowing the broadband organization to use its infrastructure ducts.
Not having access to existing infrastructure means Vodafone and QNBN would need to dig their own trenches and lay their own cables.
This is why it’s faster and more cost-effective to share, the CRA said.
QNBN has claimed Ooredoo’s failure to allow rivals to access the fixed telecoms market has led to QR750,000 in lost revenue each month.
This could cost the group more than QR92 million in revenue in 2017 and 2018, it added.
Siding with QNBN, the CRA said Ooredoo’s action “threatens to eliminate effective competition in the downstream fixed and mobile markets.”
“Such behavior is even more reprehensible in that it jeopardizes the decision of the state of Qatar to build a passive infrastructure open to all service providers…”
For its part, Ooredoo said QNBN had breached their agreement by failing to pay an invoice.
However, the CRA rejected this defense.
Vodafone Qatar / Facebook
Photo for illustrative purposes only.
The regulator has now ordered Ooredoo to fulfill all existing requests for access to its infrastructure and to submit a monthly report detailing the number of requests for access.
It has also been required to lodge a QR15 million performance bond to ensure its compliance with the order.
Doha News has asked Ooredoo for a comment on the report.