Qatar

TELECOMS and IT

Infrastructure:

An advanced ICT market is imperative to a pioneering, diversified and sustainable national economy; having recognised the social and economic benefits that a robust ICT sector can bring to a nation, Qatar has committed (and continues to commit) substantial resources into accelerating the creation of a thriving ICT sector. Dr Hamadoun I. Toure, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), has praised Qatar as one of the world’s most advanced and committed adopters of cutting edge technology.

Qatar’s telecommunications infrastructure has grown significantly and current public and private investments into the sector, to expand capacity, look promising. In 2010, private and public investment into Qatar’s ICT market amounted to USD 2.1 billion.

At present, there are two licensed service providers in the mobile market and two in the fixed market. Qatar is served by Ooredoo, (formerly known as Qatar Telecom or Q-Tel), the foremost communications provider in Qatar and one of the world’s largest communications companies. Ooredoo is a fully integrated operator, and holds a significant majority of the market share. Following liberalisation of the communications market, Vodafone was able to enter the market and now competes with Ooredoo in both the fixed and mobile markets. A recent local news report suggested that Vodafone now takes a 32.3% share of the Qatari telecoms wireless market.

Qatar holds a well developed ICT market which enjoys high fixed line and mobile penetration. Qatar’s mobile penetration is one of the highest worldwide with mobile services being offered by the incumbent, Ooredoo, and recent entrant, Vodafone. Broadband penetration is within the highest in the region, with both operators having launched mobile broadband services supported by 3G or LTE networks.

Qatar’s telecommunications infrastructure has rapidly developed, with much emphasis being placed on the advancement of next-generation access networks that enable ultra fast connectivity. The establishment of the Qatar National Broadband Network (Q.NBN) has brought Qatar closer to an advanced, next generation infrastructure, as Q.NBN proceeds with the rollout of a national fibre-based access network (fibre-to-the-home/FTTH). Broadband usage is rapidly increasing with services available via ADSL, wireless, mobile and FTTH.

According to the ITU in 2011, Qatar was ranked 2nd out of all Arab nations on the ITU’s ICT Development Index and 28th among the 142 developed and developing nations on the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index.

Though the ICT sector is not yet fully developed, the ICT market is expected to see continued growth and expansion, as evidenced by the multitude of policies and initiatives that the government and the national regulator intend on pursuing in this respect. Qatar is pushing ahead with its national strategy to create a world class ICT infrastructure and become a leading knowledge based economy over the next five years. Regulator, ictQATAR, has prioritised developing communication infrastructure as a key part of its immediate strategy.

Policies and Initiatives:

Notwithstanding the advances already made in the ICT market, government initiatives are in place to accelerate growth and develop the sector.

ictQATAR has adopted a five year plan, “Qatar’s National ICT Plan: Advancing the Digital Agenda” (the “National Plan”), which outlines Qatar’s ICT goals and objectives, together with the strategies and initiatives that will be implemented to achieve these goals by 2015.

The National Plan builds on the first ICT plan (created in 2005) and the overarching desired outcomes include the creation of an advanced ICT sector that is the foundation for a knowledge based economy and to enrich the lives of society members through ICT. The National Plan also outlines certain measurable goals. These include doubling the ICT sector’s contribution to GDP, doubling the ICT workforce, achieving ubiquitous high-speed broadband access for households and businesses, achieving mass ICT and internet adoption by all segments of society and achieving wide accessibility of all key government services.

The National Plan outlines several programs/initiatives which ictQATAR feels are strategically vital to the future development of Qatar. The goals of the National Plan are addressed through a total of 11 different programs and comprise nearly 60 unique projects. The proposed programs aim to:

  • improve connectivity – through changes to the ICT infrastructure, modernisation of the legal and regulatory framework and measures taken to improve cyber safety and security;
  • boost capacity – through digital inclusion and investing in ICT human capital;
  • foster economic development – through the creation of an innovation and entrepreneurship program and the promotion of Arabic digital content;
  • enhance public service delivery – through standardising government operations and enabling information sharing between government agencies and their constituents; and
  • advance societal benefits – through the creation of strategic frameworks for national e-education. Strategies and specific initiatives have been launched in the areas of e-commerce, e-government, e-health, e-education and smart grids.

The goals of the National Plan are aligned with Qatar’s “National Vision 2030”, National Development Strategy Document which details Qatar’s wider socioeconomic visions. This recognises the likely benefits of a fully developed, robust ICT sector to the improvement of Qatar’s social and economic development.

Relevant human capital:

In its National Plan, ictQatar identified as a challenge to the promotion of digital literacy in Qatar and recognised that the strength of the ICT sector depends largely on Qatar’s ability to foster the necessary technological skills development within its workforce. To this end, ictQATAR has proposed a number of initiatives to meet this objective, including:

  • partnering with educational institutions at all levels to develop relevant ICT curricula;
  • enhancing recruiting and advanced training opportunities; and
  • encouraging companies to provide more on the job ICT training for employees.

End-users:

A growing number of people from all sectors of Qatari society have adopted ICT in their lives. According to ictQATAR’s 2011 annual report, Qatar’s mobile penetration stood at over 135 per cent in 2011 and 89 per cent of households had a computer. Broadband usage also increased ten times to reach 68 per cent of households.

MEDIA

Qatar’s current media landscape features several local radio stations, including government owned Qatar Broadcasting Service. There are seven main newspapers, all of which are privately owned despite a strong alignment with government. The government owns one local television station, Qatar TV (QTV). QTV is the state broadcaster and branded as the official national broadcaster. The country is also served by several Al Jazeera channels. It is understood that both channels are run and financed by the Qatari government.

Qatar has never been served by any private channels. QTV began broadcasting in 1970 and held a strong monopoly over Qatari audience until the arrival of satellite TV. In 1993, Qatar Cablevision brought 31 satellite TV channels to Qatar. Throughout subsequent years, four new digital satellite pay-TV Arabic platforms were launched, (including ART/1st NET, Gulf DTH/Showtime, ORBIT and Star Select) as well as dozens of free satellite channels.

ictQATAR has very recently issued the licence to Qatar’s first satellite company, Es’hailSat to provide Public Satellite Telecommunications Networks and Services and enabled the launch of Qatar’s first satellite to provide public satellite telecommunication services in Qatar. As a result, broadcasters in Qatar will be afforded independent access to satellite capacity as well as capacity for disaster recovery purposes.