The cost for Qatar residents to make and receive calls, as well as surf the internet on a phone, while travelling to other GCC countries will become progressively cheaper in the coming years, Qatar’s Communication Regulatory Authority (CRA) said today.
The move follows a meeting of GCC ministers in Doha earlier this month that concluded with a resolution instructing telecom firms to reduce roaming charges in member states. However, today’s announcement is the first time specific rates have been released.
Currently, some Ooredoo and Vodafone customers buy special packages that lowers the cost of using one’s cell phone outside Qatar. However, the new rates are aimed at reducing the price of phone calls and mobile internet use outside the country for all customers, including those on prepaid plans, CRA said.
Prices for various roaming mobile services will drop between 8 and 85 percent by April 2019, based on currently posted prices and a schedule of fees released by CRA.
Currently, Ooredoo says its post-paid Shahry customers pay QR1.5 a minute for incoming calls while outside Qatar, QR1 for SMS messages and QR15 per megabyte of internet data. Vodafone has similar charges, although its data is priced at QR10 per megabyte.
“We are committed to promoting market competition, and bringing additional benefits to consumers,” said CRA president Mohammed Ali Al-Mannai in a statement. “This initiative is in line with CRA’s mandate to boost affordable state-of-the-art and innovative technology and telecommunications services in Qatar,” he added.
The CRA said that telecom firms are free to set prices below the regulated caps.
It appears that the prices agreed to by regulators are lower than the figures initially circulated during consultations with the telecom industry.
Earlier this month, a Vodafone spokesperson told Doha News that the proposed rates that were sent to Vodafone by the CRA were actually higher than the company’s existing roaming charges for calls and data use.
The company said today that it backed the new rates:
“Vodafone Qatar accepts and supports the CRA decision on this matter and the consumer benefit that will flow from it,” a spokesperson told Doha News on Tuesday.
This is at least the second time in three years that GCC governments have forced telecom companies in the region to lower their roaming rates.
The latest round of cuts are aimed at ensuring “that the terms and conditions of roaming services between the GCC member states are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory,” Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said last September.