Qtel pens Eur20 million deal with Siemens for 3G
In the first phase of the deployment, Qtel intends to construct a 3G network with a capacity of 120,000 subscribers within the first two years of development.
Qatari state telco Qatar Telecom (Qtel) has signed a Eur20 million (US$24 million) contract with Siemens as supplier of its core WCDMA network as well as the supplier of a portion of its UMTS radio access network (UTRAN). The total value of contracts awarded so far for the WCDMA network build out amounts to Eur35 million, with other vendors such as Alcatel, also participating in the supply of radio access equipment.
In the first phase of the deployment, Qtel intends to construct a network with a capacity of 120,000 subscribers within the first two years of development. Coverage will initially be concentrated around greater Doha, and the operator believes this is the right time to commit to the project given the general reduction of 3G handset prices and the increased level of awareness of data services in the local and regional market. “The availability and cost of handsets has prohibited the growth of 3G services in the region but that is changing,” Nasser Marafih, CEO of Qtel told CommsMEA.
The first 3G services in Qatar are set to become available before the end of this year, with the service proposition developed over time in the lead-up to the Asian Games, which are being held in Doha in December 2006. “There will be no need for subscribers to take out a new subscription when they move to 3G,” said Fahad Bin Jassim Al-Thani, executive director of Wireless Services at Qtel. “Subscribers may keep their same SIM cards; keep their numbers; our intention is to hide the technology from end-users and focus on the delivery of new services,” he added.
The operator has plans to upgrade the WCDMA network to HSDPA in the second half of 2006, a move that would provide even greater capacity and bandwidth for data services. “Our WCDMA base stations come with HSDPA capabilities, so it is up to the operator when it decides to turn this capability on,” commented Soenke Peters, vice president and general manager of Siemens Mobile Networks, EMEA. “The thing about HSDPA is that it is an incremental development as it is a software upgrade as opposed to a hardware upgrade. Once our WCDMA Node B’s are in place, it is straightforward to move to HSDPA,” Peters added.
Qtel believes that services including include video telephony, interactive games and mobile television will find strong support in the market place. Qtel CEO Marafih also views the delivery of voice over the WCDMA network as a strong proposition for the new network. Qtel counted approximately 570,000 GSM subscribers at the end of June and is ultimately preparing for the entrance of competition into the market at some stage in the future.