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Qtel cuts roaming fees

Qtel becomes the latest regional operator to cut the cost of roaming and simplify tariff structures

Tariff, Telecoms, Operators, Qatar Telecom

Qatari incumbent Qtel has launched a new set of zone-based tariffs for its roaming customers, which simplify and cut the cost of roaming calls.

The new tariff structure, which is branded “Qtel SmartRoamer”, cuts the cost for subscribers making local calls, and calling back to Qatar, while roaming. The scheme simplifies roaming charges by standardising tariffs into six “key zones” comprising the GCC, MENA, Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania, Africa and the Rest of the World.

Under the new tariff, Qtel’s “Shahry” post paid users roaming in the UAE will pay QR1 ($0.27) per minute for local calls and SMS, while calls made from the UAE to other GCC countries will cost QR2 per minute. Incoming calls for Shahry customers in the UAE cost QR1.5 per minute.

In all other GCC countries, Qtel customers will pay QR2 for local calls, QR4 for calls to other GCC countries, and QR1.5 for SMS. Incoming calls will cost QR2.25 for all regions, with only the UAE benefiting from the lower charge of QR1.5.

While the roaming costs for countries outside the GCC are more expensive, a spokesman for Qtel said the company is planning to add more countries to the “preferred network”, which would bring them under the same tariff structure as the GCC countries.

“The development plan is that more networks will come into the ‘SmartRoamer Preferred Network,’ so that the best rates can be offered to people roaming with Qtel across all zones – at the moment ‘SmartRoamer Preferred Network’ applies within the GCC,” the spokesman told CommsMEA. “However, as Qtel is growing internationally, there’s scope to add Qtel companies into the plan, starting with Asia and the Asian subcontinent, which is scheduled to happen in 2009, and also partner companies in key territories like Europe and the US.”

“Ultimately, the plan is for SmartRoamer to be fully international, and compete with the best roaming packages in the world. It’s already highly competitive compared to other similar services within the GCC region.”

Under the new tariffs, Shahry customers in other MENA countries will pay QR3 for local calls and QR8 for calls back to Qatar, while users roaming in the Americas and Europe will pay the same for local calls but QR10 for calls back to Qatar. Local calls made in Asia also cost QR3, but calls back to Qatar cost QR12. Customers in the “Africa and the rest of the world” category will pay QR5 for local calls and QR12 to call Qatar. SmartRoamer is available to all Qtel Shahry customers without any need to activate the service.

Data costs within the GCC have also been standardised under the scheme, with users roaming users paying QR15 per MB.

Qtel’s move to cut and standardise roaming charges comes as regional operators are increasingly trying to compete with the “One Network” offering from Kuwait’s Zain Group, which allows users in more than 20 countries in the Middle East and Africa to make roaming calls at local rates. UAE operator Du also recently announced that it had standardised the cost of incoming calls for its roaming users.