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.