Survey: Telecom customers in Qatar want a third operator

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Despite saying they’re overwhelmingly satisfied with telecom service in Qatar, residents would welcome a third carrier into the market to help drive prices down, a new government survey has found.

Only about a third of consumers asked said they felt that the prices for internet and phone services here are competitive, according to a customer satisfaction study conducted for Qatar’s Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA).

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Vodafone / Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Allowing a third carrier to compete against Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar was the key suggestion made by customers, according to the report’s authors, who recommended the CRA study the feasibility of inviting another operator into the market.

Vodafone broke Ooredoo’s monopoly for internet, mobile and fixed-line telephone services in Qatar in 2009, when the state-backed operator was still known as Q-Tel.

Since then, the London-based company has continued to add subscribers and erode Ooredoo’s market share. However, in its six years of operations, Vodafone has yet to turn a profit.

And speaking to Doha News, Vodafone Qatar’s CEO previously said that the country was not yet ready to support a third service provider. 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.”

Price perceptions

Since its launch, Vodafone has helped bring down prices for all telecom users.

For example, international calling rates in Qatar prior to the company’s arrival ranged from QR2 to QR6 a minute.

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Gwyneth Anne Bronwynne Jones/Flickr

For illustrative purposes only.

Now, both Vodafone and Ooredoo offer long-distance rates for less than half a riyal a minute to more than 100 other countries.

Similarly, local calls cost 55 dirhams a minute before Vodafone entered in Qatar. Both companies now offers rates as low as 10 dirhams a minute.

Despite the added competition, Qatar continues to have the highest prices for broadband internet in the GCC, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency.

Not everyone is bothered by telecom prices in Qatar. Though one in five customers say services are highly priced, as a whole, roughly half of those surveyed said prices for Qatar’s telecom services are either low or very competitive, according to the CRA survey.

More broadly, Qatar residents said they’re highly satisfied with network coverage and availability, but think there’s room for improvement in terms of how Ooredoo and Vodafone deal with complaints, set their prices and structure their plans.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Mohamed Nanabhay/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Overall, 88 percent of respondents said they’re pleased with the quality of telecom services provided in Qatar. That’s slightly higher than a global benchmark, based on similar surveys in other countries, of 84 percent but lower than the responses from telecom customers in the UAE.

Some 93 percent of broadband internet and mobile customers in that Gulf country reported being satisfied, according to the report.

The survey of Qatar consumers was based on 2,526 in-person interviews and nine focus group sessions.

Here’s a copy of the full report:

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