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Vodafone Qatar calls for site-sharing plan

Qatar requires a national mobile infrastructure site-sharing plan, according to acting-CEO of Vodafone Qatar.

Vodafone Qatar calls for site-sharing plan
John Tombleson is keen to see more tower sharing between Qtel and Vodafone Qatar.

Vodafone Qatar continues to face a challenge in deploying permanent cell towers and in sharing existing cell sites with Qtel, the country's incumbent operator.

Vodafone Qatar, which became Qatar's second mobile operator in 2009, is currently using 108 temporary base stations as part of its network, owing to difficulties in gaining approval to deploy permanent cell towers on publicly-owned land, and a lack of enthusiasm from Qtel to share its cell towers, according to John Tombleson, acting CEO, Vodafone Qatar.

The problem with gaining permission to build cell towers stems from the fact that the land is government owned, and that the government is not keen on seeing "a proliferation of cell towers" now that there are two operators in the market, according to Tombleson.

However, the problem is compounded by the slow pace of progress on infrastructure sharing with Qtel.

"The government wants us to have a national site sharing plan, where we share a tower between Qtel and Vodafone and we each put our own radio equipment on that tower. But of course getting Qtel to move quickly on that is a challenge," Tombleson told CommsMEA.

He added that a site sharing plan needs to be mandated between the municipality and the regulator, ictQatar, which would clarify exactly how to implement site sharing and set a target number of cell towers to be shared each year.

"That would be a great piece of regulation, because if you can't build towers you can't put up your network and you can't get to parity," Tombleson said.

Tombleson said that Vodafone Qatar's reliance on more than 100 temporary cell sites is far from ideal. These cell sites are less robust than permanent sites, require constant maintenance, and cannot be used as hub sites, all of which puts Vodafone Qatar at a disadvantage, he said. "With the number of temporary cell towers, it is a challenge," Tombleson said.

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