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Vodafone Qatar rebuffs criticism from Qtel

Qatar’s second operator defends reasons cited for using temporary sites and delays to network roll out

Vodafone Qatar has defended comments it made to the Arabic press earlier this week, which suggested Qtel and the Qatari government were partly responsible for delays to the roll out of its network.

Grahame Maher, CEO, Vodafone Qatar confirmed to CommsMEA that despite “six months activity”, his company has yet to gain approval for the use of any government land or towers for its cell sites.

He also confirmed that while his company had agreed a site sharing deal with Qtel, it had failed to progress as quickly as he had expected.

“Despite Qtel providing us a list of 184 possible sites to share in December 08, none have yet been implemented.

“I have been impressed with Qtel’s willingness at a board level to share towers and believe this demonstrates their international knowledge and experience, however it is taking a lot longer than I expected for sharing to be implemented,” Maher said in a statement.

“I believe this is all about cultural change within Qtel. This will happen, but it is taking a long time.”

But Maher stressed that he believed the delays at the government and Qtel were unintentional, and were more the result of the country adapting to becoming a telecoms duopoly after years of having only one operator.

“I accept that this is due to these being new processes in the country, as previously there has only been one operator. We are working well with the government to define and develop new processes that will improve this, not just for Vodafone but also for Qtel and others, but this takes time,” Maher said.

He added that Vodafone Qatar was continuing to build its own towers, but until the sites were approved by the government, it would continue to use temporary sites. The company now has 130 approved sites in various stages of construction, with another 110 sites awaiting approval from the government.

“We do not want to use temporary towers but have 225 available to ensure sure we can deliver for our customers in the meantime,” Maher said. He added that Qtel was in the process of arranging 10 sites to share with Vodafone Qatar.

“I hope that by working together with Qtel and the government we will improve the speed of implementation and help all the parties involved improve the processes required for the future,” Maher said.

Vodafone Qatar was awarded Qatar’s second mobile licence in December 2007. The operator activated its network for an initial 100 users in March 2009, and this was expanded to 1000 users later in the same month. The company expects to launch full services by September 1.