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Friday, July 30, 2021

Ooredoo launches attack on Qatar’s telecoms regulator

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

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
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

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.

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