Poor network coverage on mobile phones is among the most common complaints that residents in Qatar have when it comes to telecom services, according to the nation’s Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA).
Established earlier this year by Emiri Decree, the CRA is an independent regulatory arm of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar) that oversees telecoms, access to digital media and the postal service.
In March, the CRA launched a mobile app called Arsel (which means “send” in English) to provide customers with a quick and easy way to send feedback.
Complaints are logged onto an interactive map that is updated every 48 hours, recording the location of the customer and flagging up trouble hot spots, which are then investigated by the CRA.
CRA’s Consumer and Government Affairs department told Qatar Tribune that it had received 400 comments since the app was launched, mostly relating to poor internet connection. The issues surround indoor and outdoor coverage, on both 3G and 4G networks.
Amel Al Hanawi, Consumer and Government Affairs manager, said the problems were discussed with Oooredoo and Vodafone, the two service providers in Qatar.
However, she added that the number of formal complaints made continues to rise.
She said: “We have received more than 50 formal complaints through Arsel, with the number of complaints increasing daily.”
Users can download the app for iOS, Blackberry or Android devices, then log their feedback using their Qatar ID number. There is an option for recording general comments or for making a formal request, with the latter dealt with by the CRA’s consumer protection team.
Each customer can record up to five comments a day using the system. They can also use it to test and record their internet speed.
Despite the complaints, telecom providers this weekend have said an upgrade to their data networks has made it possible to launch a new mobile internet promotion.
Both Ooredeoo and Vodafone are now offering 10 times more data allowance for mobile users until Dec. 31. Vodafone pre-paid customers can access the extra data by buying an internet data scratch card or by recharging online or at a self-service machine.
Ooredoo is also offering 10 times data with the purchase of its internet scratch cards.
This is not the first time that both providers have launched similar promotions. In August, Vodafone and Ooredoo cut the local call rate to 10Dhs a minute in the run-up to Eid Al Adha.
Speaking of the coincidence at the time, a Vodafone-Qatar spokesperson told Doha News:
“Vodafone aims to always lead the market in innovative services and best value. We certainly do not share plans or coordinate activity with our competitor.”
Improving mobile internet access is just one of Qatar’s many ambitious connectivity targets. Speaking last month in South Korea, Dr. Hessa Al-Jaber, Minister of Information and Communications Technology, announced training programs for women, the young, the elderly and low-skilled workers.
Under its Better Connections Program, installing broadband connections in workers’ accommodation is also a priority.
And Qatar’s National Broadband Plan, which was launched last year, aims to provide high quality, affordable and high-speed broadband to all residents.
By 2016, the government said it plans to give all Qatar residents the choice of a minimum of two broadband retail providers.
Over the next two years, other goals include giving 95 percent of households the ability to access affordable and high-quality broadband service of at least 100Mbps for downloads and 50Mbps for uploads, and ensuring all businesses, schools, hospitals and government institutions have high-quality access to at least 1Gbps effective symmetrical speeds.