A recent report has said Qatar’s government wants more competition in the country’s telecommunications sector in the coming years.
In its wide-ranging 2013-14 annual report, released last week, Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar) said “introducing new service providers into the market at the infrastructure or service level” is one of its “action items” in a three-year regulatory strategy released in 2013.
IctQatar has previously committed to giving consumers a choice between at least two broadband internet service providers by 2016. While the report could be referring to that previously stated goal, the more open-ended language leaves open the possibility that the ministry wants consumers to have another choice for phone, mobile and internet services beyond Ooredoo and Vodafone.
Neither ictQatar nor either of the country’s telecom providers immediately responded to a request for comment.
However, Vodafone Qatar’s CEO previously told Doha News that the country was not yet ready to support a third service provider. Speaking in November 2013, Kyle Whitehill said:
“If I look at comparative populations, if feels like a tough place to come as a third operator when you still have such a monopolistic position in some market segments. It would be hard to imagine what a third operator would be able to do without some structural changes in the marketplace.”
Vodafone offered phone and internet consumers their first – and currently only – alternative to state-backed Qtel (now Ooredoo) when it launched its Qatar operations in 2009.
Speaking to the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar last week, Whitehill highlighted how consumer prices have since plummeted.
According to figures provided by Vodafone, international calling rates in Qatar prior to the company’s arrival ranged between QR2 and QR6 a minute. Vodafone currently offers long-distance rates of 45 dirhams a minute to more than 100 other countries.
Similar, local calls cost 55 dirhams a minute before Vodafone entered in Qatar, according to a company spokesperson. The firm now offers rates as low as 10 dirhams a minute.
On the broadband internet front, a lack of competition in many parts of the country is contributing to Qatar continuing to have the highest prices in the GCC, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency.
Qatar’s National Broadband Strategy aims to bring down retail costs by ensuring that all residents can choose between at least two competing broadband retail providers by 2016, a deadline that was restated in ictQatar’s annual report.
The document also notes:
- Revenues in Qatar’s telecom market climbed 11 percent year-over-year to QR8.5 billion in 2013. Net profits were stable at QR1.1 billion;
- Qatar’s government cabinet has approved a new personal information privacy protection law that is currently under review by the country’s legislative committee. If approved, it will introduce privacy standards for all sectors in the country with a focus on protecting information regarding children, location data and sensitive personal information such as religious affiliation and medical conditions;
- Amid ongoing calls for the country to tighten its cyber security systems, Q-CERT – Qatar’s Computer Emergency Response Team – detected 50 “website defacements” and discovered malicious activities in 500 corporate networks across Qatar.
It is easy to see how a 3rd operator could differentiate itself from Ooredoo and Vodafone…. just provide a good reliable service!
Good and reliable service in Qatar? 🙂
The definition of Oxymoron.
Why the same standard picture? Unless he has just said, ‘how f@&£ing much for Internet?’
It would help mostly with Internet, but to be honest I do not think a third operator can be profitable here. The market is already saturated and both Ooredoo and Vodafone have the power to kill any competition with very low rates.
Fair point on mobile services. Vodafone is already unprofitable (despite overcharging everyone) and recently those losses have been increasing, not falling, despite customer growth.
Fixed line broadband is in desperate need of competition. The cost is ridiculous. Ooredoo are still fighting hard politically not to let a competitor in. Unfortunately, so far, they’ve been successful.
DohaNews sponsored by Vodafone Qatar.
Maybe a joint-venture with AT&T ?
In 2010, Virgin Mobile made it to Qatar (yes, in the end they were part of QTel…), and their services, rates and offers were perfect! I never had issues with network, internet or anything, and their customer service literally rocked – no long waiting, informed, knowledgeable, helpful and friendly call center agents, they even did fun events … they just should have done the legal side differently, better, then I am sure they still would be here …
Because infrastructure is expensive and Doha is so compact, ICT must compel Ooredoo to share, especially through LLU. To do that ICT needs teeth to push that through government. If ICT continues to get bullied by Ooredoo, potential ISPs will not attract investors because any new ISP is going to go the way of QNBN – a classic tail of the de-nationalised incumbent obstructing the newcomer at every turn and every level, from legislation to duct access.
I guess a parallel can be drawn between Qatar and the US. In the US the companies pay politicians to get the “right” legislation. In Qatar, companies’ CEOs and boards have the political connections to get the “right” legislation. In both cases those in political power forget that their interests are the population, not the corporations or their pockets.
The UK seems to have had one of the more successful LLU roll-outs – going from a single national telco to today where it seems every man and his dog can set up their own ISP – so perhaps see if ICT can get some consulting from their UK counterpart OFCOM, and BT Openreach? (Whatever you do don’t take any advice on mobiles from them since service outside the UK’s cities or transport arteries is hopeless.)