Qtel denies delaying rival’s network rollout

Lack of planning and vendor change caused delay, according to statement from Qtel

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By  Roger Field Published  April 14, 2009

Qtel has denied causing delays to the roll out of Vodafone Qatar’s network, in response to comments made by Grahame Maher, CEO of Qatar’s second mobile operator, which appeared in Arabic press reports.

According to the reports, Maher blamed a lack of site sharing cooperation from Qtel, and slow decision making from government authorities for the allocation of land for cell sites, as being among the main reasons for delays to the roll out of its mobile network.

Vodafone Qatar was originally supposed to achieve 98% population coverage and launch its complete set of services by the 1st of March this year. This has since been pushed back to the 1st of September.

Qtel hit back at Maher’s comments with the release of a statement last night, in which it denied the allegations and blamed the delays on Vodafone Qatar for a lack of forward planning.

In the statement, Qtel said it had “committed to all its legal operations under ictQatar regulations” to support the entry of a new operator into the Qatari market, and added that it had also agreed voluntarily to site sharing.

“Qtel has no regulatory obligation to provide site-sharing facilities to a new competitor. However, Qtel has agreed to a widespread site-sharing program because we believe it is better for both operators, providing cost savings on infrastructure development, and for the nation, by reducing the environmental impact of multiple towers,” the company said.

Qtel offered to share 182 existing sites and all new green field sites for its competitors’ use and concluded a site sharing deal “in record time for the region”, Qtel stated.

The statement added that Vodafone Qatar caused the delay to the network roll out by failing to bring a full team to Qatar quickly enough after winning the licence, and because it changed its vendor after starting work on the network. The operator also “changed its technical specifications repeatedly in the course of negotiations, necessitating further changes and some delays,” according to Qtel.

In a recent interview with CommsMEA, Maher admitted that Vodafone Qatar had experienced delays in gaining permission for permanent sites for its base stations, but added that the company was working constructively with the authorities to resolve the problem.

“We have plenty of identified sites and available leases in commercial areas but we can’t get it all through the approvals processes. And all with good reasons – it’s new and Qatar is trying to develop a special new infrastructure,” Maher said.

“ICT Qatar is being very supportive and understanding because what they want to see is a great experience for customers. In a country like this, that should mean it works everywhere.”

He added that his company was working on a site sharing deal with Qtel and said that he expected the network to have almost complete coverage throughout Qatar by July or August.

“We have signed an agreement with Qtel to share towers and land, and we are in the middle of testing 14 test sites at the moment. That will allow us to move more quickly and will reduce costs for Qtel because we will pay them rent.”

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