Last week broadband Internet access in Qatar took a big leap forward with news that Qtel was doubling Internet access speeds for three levels of service with no increase in costs.
‘We have seen a strong take-up of this service of the past year,’ Chief Executive Officer Dr. Nasser M. Marafih told AME Info. ‘We continue to see a high rate of migration from dial-up to ADSL services, and presently have around 45,000 dial-up Internet subscribers compared with 12-13,000 for ADSL.’
This is all part of a big push forward by Qtel to upgrade its facilities, particularly with the Asian Games coming up in Doha late next year.
‘We are also introducing 3G mobile phones and are in the process of selecting a vendor,’ says Dr. Marafih. ‘We expect to have 3G in service by the end of the year, and are happy that the earlier problems with 3G handsets have been solved. For the Asian Games, Qtel is a part of the organizing committee and we were keen to have 3G ready for this event.’
Dr. Marafih says that Qatar Telecom is on a three to four year growth track. He notes the huge expansion of the oil and gas sector, and the consequent demands on the sector, plus the Education City initiative which will bring many students into Doha.
‘Our concentration will be on value added services such as broadband, 3G and also cable TV. We will be introducing Triple Play cable TV which handles broadband Internet, IP telephony and TV through one cable.’
Exciting times at home are complemented by expansion abroad for Qtel with its first mobile phone joint venture in Oman in association with TDC of Denmark which launched in March and now has 16,500 subscribers.
‘We looked at the Oman market for two years, and it is doing very well so far, says Dr. Marafih. ‘Oman does not have a high level of GSM penetration and we will quickly offer around 90% coverage of the sultanate.’
This experience could well be applied to other Gulf markets as they open up, and Qtel’s boss admits that the third Saudi Arabian mobile licence looks a ‘very attractive option’ though he will need to see ‘ terms and conditions and a feasibility study’ before making a commitment. The UAE mobile sector is another market that Qtel would also like to look at.
In its domestic market Qtel does not need to prepare for competition until its monopoly expires in 2013, although it could be renewed. But Dr. Marafih says he already runs Qtel as if competition was about to appear, so as to be ready when it does, and just in case the government changes its policy. But with 75% GSM penetration, he argues that there would not be much for competition to go for in Qatar.
Saturday, April 23- 2005 @ 16:25 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.