Qatar is prepared to implement the first phase of the new regulation on reduced roaming charges within the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) region for the benefit of telecom consumers in Qatar and the rest of GCC member states, it was announced yesterday.
The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) of Qatar has co-ordinated with both service providers – Ooredoo and Vodafone – to launch the new rates from April 1 as planned.
Since the decision was announced last year, CRA had worked with the service providers and put in place the necessary regulatory instructions and orders to ensure they had sufficient time to plan the implementation. Both service providers have been supportive in complying with this regulation.
Implementation of this consumer-centric initiative is a direct result of the decision by the GCC Ministerial Committee for Post, Telecommunications and Information Technology to reduce rates for roaming, telephone calls, text messaging and data services throughout the GCC countries.
Receiving SMS messages while in roaming will remain free. The reductions in roaming charges on both the inter-operator wholesale level and end-user retail level will take place over a three years period, for voice calls and SMS services, and over a five years period for mobile data services.
This decision aims at enhancing co-operation among GCC countries in the field of communication for the benefit of GCC citizens. As per Article 24 of the Economic Agreement among the GCC countries, “member states shall take all the necessary measures to ensure the integration of their communication policies, including telecommunication, post and data network services, to improve their service levels and economic efficiency and to strengthen the ties between GCC citizens as well as private and public institutions”.
Adel M Darwish, head of International Relations at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Bahrain and chairman of the GCC Roaming Working Group, indicated that reduction rates in roaming charges are to reach 40% in the current phase. Moreover, the first phase of the new regulation (2016) is expected to save $1,137mn for mobile phone subscribers in GCC countries and to boost social welfare by $404mn.
A dedicated working group from the GCC countries will monitor the service charges on regular basis and provide necessary recommendations to the Ministerial Committee for Post, Telecommunications and Information Technology.
A comprehensive mechanism was also developed to collect data in a periodic, unified and organised manner, to help decision makers and the working group to be up-to-date with all the developments in the roaming service market and to enable them to monitor and ensure effective application of the regulation.
“CRA remains committed to continue its efforts to promote competition in the communications sector, ensure benefits are passed to consumers, and boost the availability of advanced, innovative and reliable services in the State of Qatar,” it was reiterated in a statement.
CRA regulates the communications and information technology sector, postal services, and access to digital media. CRA uses its regulatory powers mandated by the Emiri decree to protect consumer rights, ensure competition, manage the resolution of disputes, and manage the electromagnetic spectrum. In all its activities, the CRA seeks to ensure the provision of advanced, innovative and reliable ICT and postal services across the State of Qatar. (Source)
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