Browsing 'CRA' News

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Shabina S. Khatri

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Ooredoo Qatar has denounced an official report from the state’s telecom watchdog as unbalanced and containing “grave errors.”

The service provider was ordered this month to share access to its infrastructure with the state-owned Qatar National Broadband Network (QNBN).

In a lengthy and unusually strongly-worded report, Qatar’s Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) censured Ooredoo for denying access, calling the action “reprehensible.”

But Ooredoo has responded publicly this week by saying QNBN undertook “illicit use” of its ducts.

And this morning, CRA has removed the decision from its website.

Ooredoo response

In a detailed response, Ooredoo “expressed its disappointment” at the CRA’s decision.

It said it was a “responsible organization that abides by the rules” and has been cooperating with the regulator, in anticipation of a final agreement.

“However, the CRA has opted to make this commercial dispute into a public discussion, so Ooredoo is compelled to make the facts public,” it added.

Ooredoo headquarters

Lesley Walker / Doha News

Ooredoo headquarters

In its statement, Ooredoo said it had not refused rivals access to its infrastructure.

However, it also said it would only resume its access agreement with QNBN after the broadband organization took certain steps.

That includes compensating Ooredoo for its access.

The provider also said that the CRA made “grave errors” by making last-minute changes to the sharing agreements:

“Such modifications may expose our network to mismanagement and would negatively impact the quality of services that we offer to our customers…

Our experience with QNBN shows that we need to be very careful in allowing third parties to utilize our networks,” it added.

In response to criticism that it was being anti-competitive, Ooredoo denied that it was to blame for the limited competition in the fixed line market in Qatar.

Instead, it blamed the CRA for failing to properly enforce licenses issued by Vodafone and QNBN.

Such action “has denied Qatar the diversified and second network that it deserves and that other countries enjoy,” it said.

QNBN complaints

QNBN lodged an official complaint with the CRA in March this year over the access issue.

After conducting an investigation, the CRA sided with QNBN, and said Ooredoo’s action “threatens to eliminate effective competition in the downstream fixed and mobile markets.”

QNBN

QNBN/Flickr

QNBN

It blamed Ooredoo for damaging the country’s economic development and driving up prices for consumers.

In two further documents, dated Sept. 4 but which were only published on the CRA website today, the regulator also issued Ooredoo with notices of non-compliance.

These state that Ooredoo has continued to ignore CRA requests for information. According to one of them:

“Ooredoo’s failure to provide the information requested constitutes a breach and violation of the law and consequential non-compliance with the Telecommunications Law as well as the terms of its license.”

Breaking this law can result in criminal prosecution, a fine and/or the start of a process to change the terms of its operating license, the CRA warned.

The deadline to follow the orders has now passed, but a CRA spokesman was unable to tell Doha News whether Ooredoo has complied.

The end of both letters state that CRA reserves the right to publish the documents “in the interest of transparency and non-discrimination.”

However, these notices have also now been removed from the CRA’s website.

Thoughts?

Note: This article has been edited to reflect that the CRA reinstated the Ooredoo Order to its website on Sept. 28.

Ooredoo headquarters

Lesley Walker / Doha News

Ooredoo headquarters

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.

Fiber network

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.

Complaint

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.

QNBN

QNBN/Flickr

QNBN

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.

Competition

Siding with QNBN, the CRA said Ooredoo’s action “threatens to eliminate effective competition in the downstream fixed and mobile markets.”

It continued:

“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.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Vodafone Qatar / Facebook

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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.

Thoughts?

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Vlady Sarzhevsky/Flickr

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In response to an increasing number of complaints about data roaming charges while Qatar residents travel abroad, the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has issued some advice to ward off bill shock.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Check out roaming packages

Both Ooredoo and Vodafone charge high data fees for those on roaming.

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Shehan Peruma/Flickr

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But they also offer special packages and products for users, so make sure to check with your service provider about what’s available and understand all related terms and conditions before selecting such an option.

2. Know how to activate/terminate before you start using

It’s usually better to activate a roaming package before you travel so you don’t incur additional charges once you fly out of Qatar.

Make sure to call your service provider or visit their website so that you are aware of available information.

3. Use the correct network

Qatar telecom providers often partner only with select networks in the country you’re visiting.

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WorldSim

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Thus, it’s best to turn your network selection to manual mode in your mobile device settings to ensure that a strong non-partnering network doesn’t get selected automatically.

4. Monitor data usage

If you do elect to pay for a roaming package, make sure to keep track of your balance to avoid racking up extra fees.

According to the CRA, “the service provider is obliged to provide you notifications before your package ends or is consumed.”

5. Turn off data roaming

For those who aren’t using one of their telecom providers’ roaming packages, the CRA advises turning off data roaming on your phone to avoid being charged for using data services.

Doing this will not affect wifi usage, voice calls and texts.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Alan Levine/Flickr

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On the bright side, CRA reminders travelers that within the GCC, roaming charges for voice calls, outgoing texts and data services have been reduced since April.

Travelers can also avail of free wifi services at airports, hotels and other venues.

Do you have any advice to add? Thoughts?