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Qtel prepares for Palestinian launch

Low market penetration and a lack of competition indicate significant potential, according to Qtel CEO.

Qatar's incumbent telecom operator Qtel is preparing to launch GSM services in Palestine early in 2008, the company's CEO, Dr. Naser Marafih, told CommsMEA. "We are in the final stages of preparing to launch our services in Palestine. We have started preparing the ground for the launch and we are just waiting for the final approval for the documentation," Marafih said.

Qtel, which will become the second telecom operator in Palestine, will initially focus on GSM services in the West Bank before looking at Gaza. It will compete with Paltel, the incumbent telecom operator in Palestine.

Marafih is optimistic about the move, not least because of a low mobile penetration rate in Palestine. "This is one of the few markets that has only one operator. We believe that the potential growth for Palestine is huge because the market is still actually below 40% penetration," he said.

"Growth potential is very high. When you look at penetration in other parts of the region, the average is about 60% to 70%, or higher. The potential for Palestine is huge and we will only be the second operator."

The development forms part of Qtel's strategy to expand its services, particularly its GSM offering, across the MENA region and parts of Asia, in a bid to become one of the world's top 40 telecom companies by 2020. In March 2007, Qtel acquired a 51% stake in Kuwait's National Mobile Telecommunications Co (Wataniya), which has a presence in six countries.