Qatar is considered to be one of the most highly connected markets in the Middle East and offers significant opportunity due to its high numbers of mobile and broadband subscribers combined with wealth due to its large natural gas reserves.
Fixed-line penetration is relatively high, as is mobile. While such levels might suggest that there is little room for new competitors in the fixed-line or mobile markets, the very fluid and rapidly expanding population due to the large number of expatriate workers creates considerable opportunity.
The rapid rise is due to the influx of low income workers to participate in Qatar's numerous infrastructure building projects, including those for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The rapidly growing population is placing higher demand on infrastructure including hospitals, schools, housing, utilities and transportation. As a result Qatar is beginning to explore smart city concepts and deploy smart solutions led by construction of its Lusail City which is a planned urban development.
Deployment of fibre networks in particular has been a key focus of the Qatar government and in 2015 the leading fixed player, Ooredoo, has over 200,000 of its fixed broadband customers connected to its fibre network. Qatar embarked on its extensive FttH deployment program in 2012 and an independent operating company, Qatar National Broadband Network Company (QNBN) was appointed to operate the network and offer wholesale broadband capacity to both Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar. 0Qatar has used its vast wealth to fund ICT initiatives to diversify its economy, with multibillion developments in science and techno centres, R&D facilities, e-transport, green economy and FttH broadband connectivity. Businesses, governments and private citizens have been instrumental in creating the online content and services that make up the Information society. Initial strategies centred on accessibility, encouraging broadband infrastructure deployment and affordability of online access.
Key telecom parameters 2012; 2015 Sector | 2012 | 2015 Subscribers to telecoms services (million): (e) Fixed Broadband | 0.16 | 0.21 Fixed-line telephony | 0.32 | 0.42 Mobile phone | 2.60 | 4.40 (Source: BuddeComm based on ITU)
In 2014 a new independent communication regulator (CRA) was established in Qatar. In June 2015 the CRA announced Qatar would have mandatory reductions to roaming charges for voice calls, SMS, and mobile data coming into initial effect on the 1st of April 2016. Qatar's second independent satellite is currently under construction with plans that Es'hail 2 would be launched in late 2016. Qatar's goal is to have 100% of government services online by 2020 and it is about half way towards this goal. Recognising the inherent opportunities in faster communications for social and economic development, Qatar has embarked on developing a national fibre-based access network, known as QNBN. Qatar is fast becoming recognised as a leader in the fibre deployment in the region. In 2015 Ooredoo announced it had formed a partnership with OTT video streaming service STARZ Play. Qatar has taken steps to develop a knowledge-based society as part of its wider socioeconomic development goals as stated in National Development Strategy document Qatar National Vision 2030. Strategies and specific initiatives have been launched in the areas of e-commerce, e-government, e-health, e-education and smart grids.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Ooredoo Qatar, Vodafone Qatar, Qatar National Broadband Network (QNBN).