Vodafone-led consortium bags qatar’s second fixed line licence

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The Vodafone/Qatar Foundation consortium has secured the country's second fixed line licence, drawing up the battle lines against incumbent Qatar Telecom (Qtel) on two fronts. The country's telecommunications regulatory authority, ictQATAR, had granted the consortium the second mobile licence in December last year.

Although many claim to be not too surprised the consortium won the second fixed licence, William Fagan, ictQATAR Executive Director, told The Peninsula yesterday: "There were three bidders, so Vodafone had a one in three chance of winning. The award was based on the actual evaluation under business plans. The two (mobile and fixed services) are not related as they were two separate processes."

The consortium will be paying QR10m as a fee to start operations here as opposed to the mobile licence, where a massive QR7.72bn was paid for the privilege of being the second operator following a bidding process.

Fagan said the licence will be officially handed over in the last week of November or in early December. "We have left a two-week window,"

he said.

The two who lost out to Vodafone/QF were the Jordan Telecom consortium formed with Orange/France Telecom and the Hong Kong-based PCCW and QIPCO consortium. The three groups remaining emerged on a shortlist after AT&T, Batelco, British Telecom, Eutelia and Verizon had been effectively weeded out.

Asked on why the announcement was delayed — it was expected some time in May or June — Fagan said: "It just took a bit of time to get our board members together due to the summer holidays."

The new entrant is expected to launch services here next year. Dr Hessa Al Jaber, ictQATAR Secretary-General, said: "This is a significant step toward liberalising our market for communications networks and services and creating a knowledge-based information society. The result of the entrance of Vodafone into our fixed market will bring to consumers better value and innovation in products and services."

Al Jaber said new operators opening telecommunications offices here would mean better pricing, service range and quality for consumers in the country.

Grahame Maher, Vodafone Qatar CEO, said in a statement: "We are delighted as this will strengthen our ability to make a world of difference for the people in Qatar. The combined strengths provided by the mobile and fixed licences will enable the two companies (mobile and fixed) to produce synergies that will deliver total communications services to our customers, whilst delivering value to customers and shareholders."

Matthew Harrison-Harvey, Director of Regulatory & External Relations, said the mobile and fixed sides of the business will be two different entities. "There is a different shareholding structure. They will be two separate companies, but to our customers there will be just one Vodafone."

The consortium will now proceed with licence pre-grant requirements, including the formation of an incorporated company with other shareholders as specified by the application procedures laid down by ictQATAR.

Rashid Al Naimi, Vice-President for Administration at QF, said: "We have a clear strategy to attract innovative and technology-based companies that will support Qatar's mission to develop a knowledge-based economy while at the same time providing employment opportunities, knowledge transfer and best-in-class services to the people of Qatar."

Vodafone/QF will also be providing fibre-optic and WiMAX services. This aspect was included in the original application document as the country is considered too small to have a separate WiMAX operator. WiMAX allows for providing wireless data over long distances.

The Pen