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17 November 2008 09:10 am

Vodafone-Qtel bout begins

Khalifa Al Haroon
Khalifa Al Haroon
Your friendly neighborhood Qatari
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With just 100 days to go before the dawn of competition, the battle between Vodafone and Qtel is hotting up. With Vodafone yet to release a single detail about their pricing plans, Qtel has again released new offers to tempt customers to stay with them. All set to roll out its mobile phone and Internet services across the country from March 1, 2009, Vodafone mobile numbers are to begin with the ‘lucky digit’ 7 and people can look forward to some surprising promotional offers which may include competitive call rates and even free or subsidised handsets. “We have a few surprises for Qtel,” Vodafone Qatar’s CEO, Grahame Maher, told reporters here yesterday and added: “Every market we enter we expect to take a larger share…We will be the number one brand in Qatar.” “By just being here we are making a difference for the people in Qatar,” Maher said in a veiled reference to Qtel’s engagement in what it has termed as the ‘broadest series of product and service improvements’. Vodafone is the fifth largest mobile handset manufacturer in the world and also works closely with other manufacturing giants like Nokia and Sony Ericsson, among others. But just as Maher and his colleagues were unveiling Vodafone’s launch plans, Qtel announced major cuts in its call rates to Europe, Australia and America. Call charges for other GCC states have been slashed to QR1 per minute while for Europe, Australia and the US, the new rates per minute will be QR1.25. Calls to India and other Asian countries as well as countries in Africa will attract charges at QR1.50 per minute. “All rates will apply 24 hours a day,” Adel Al Mutawa, executive director of group communications, Qtel, said. The new payphone rates will enable customers to utilise their smart card at any payphone booth and receive up to 39 percent in savings, said Al Mutawa. Avoiding the mention of expected competition from a second operator, Qtel pointed out that the population of the country continued to rise and its network of public payphones was enjoying higher usage levels than ever before. “We are going to make a world of difference for the people in Qatar,” Maher vowed. He said Vodafone had got the approval from the regulators (ictQatar) to launch fixed line phone services in the country, too, but the formalities are yet to be completed. About the initial public offering (IPO), Maher stated that as soon as the Qatar Financial Markets Authority gives it the green signal, Vodafone would float the offer which will be open for subscription only for citizens of Qatar. The Pen