Road to competition

Qatar’s commitments to the World Trade Organisation may force it to open up the telecomms sector for competition.

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By  John Irish Published  January 18, 2004

Qataris could see competition in the mobile telecommunications sector sooner than expected after a senior official from the country’s monopoly telecomms operator Qatar Telecom (Qtel) claimed his firm was actively preparing for competition. Speaking on the sidelines of the Gulf Marketing Forum, Sheikh Fahed bin Jassim Al Thani, senior manager, marketing, wireless, claimed that despite being a monopoly, Qtel provided a complete range of services for its customers and offered extremely competitive pricing. However, when pressed on the conflict between Qatar’s position as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Qtel's monopoly, Sheikh Fahed indicated cautiously that a competitor might be allowed within the next few years. “We are preparing for competition and have put in place a programme to prepare us for it,” said Sheikh Fahed. “ We will not oppose it, although it is still a high level decision.” The comments are in contrast to remarks made by Dr Nasser M. Marafih, chief executive officer of Qtel, in August 2003. At the time, Marafih had pointed out that Qtel held legal exclusivity in all of Qatar’s telecomms market until 2013, and was unlikely to open the sector for competition. “Qatar is a member of the WTO and telecomms is one of the things that are being discussed,” said Marafih. “I don’t think that there’s any sign that the government is going to open up the sector soon.”

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