Interview: Ian Gray
How can the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) help create a level playing field?
IAN GRAY: We remain optimistic that the CRA can improve the competitive balance in Qatar. As an independent body, the CRA is better able to take the sometimes difficult decisions needed to provide the platform for a more effective and sustainable operating environment while realising genuine benefits for all consumers and businesses alike. The market has seen the significant benefits that competition has brought to mobile customers in Qatar since Vodafone Qatar entered the market in 2009, including greater choice, better prices, higher speeds and enhanced levels of service. The CRA needs to continue to focus on bringing the same benefits to fixed-line broadband customers by creating and enforcing a comprehensive and effective wholesale access regime to critical infrastructure, such as duct.
What impact will Vodafone Qatar’s pulling out of Qatar National Broadband Network (Qnbn) have?
GRAY: Vodafone Qatar has not pulled out of Qnbn. While Vodafone Qatar’s proposal to acquire and take ownership of Qnbn did not proceed, the business continues to work closely with Qnbn to provide fixed-line services to customers in Qatar. The proposal to acquire Qnbn was part of the company’s broader strategy to seek to further enter and compete in the fixed-line market. We continue to evaluate and exploit all viable options to this end. Ultimately, the final structure of the fixed-line and mobile market is a matter of policy for the government to consider in light of its objectives and the national interest. The key is to balance the benefits of competition with efficient use of resources. Vodafone Qatar continues to engage with the ministry and the CRA on this and looks forward to settling on a structure that provides a platform for genuine and sustainable competition. This will enable competition to deliver the same benefits of choice, price and quality of service in fixed-line services as it has in mobile.
Where should ICT investment be directed?
GRAY: The sector cannot reach its full growth potential without further private sector investment in networks and new technologies. The internet of things (IoT) has a tremendous impact on economic growth. Connectivity is the platform that will continue to be the basic foundation of the digital ecosystem evolution and allow consumers and enterprises to have access to new technologies. It is of paramount importance that a level competitive playing field be created as the platform for effective competition, which itself is the main driver for innovation and investment in networks. Further private sector investment in technology and innovation centres supporting entrepreneurs and businesses in generating new innovative ideas, applications, devices and services will create opportunities for other ICT companies in cloud computing and for the digitalisation of industries. The private sector should be further encouraged to invest in value-added services to increase digital inclusion. Examples include e-money, to improve financial services and develop e-commerce; education, e-learning and transport, where there are many opportunities to invest in near-field communication technologies in public transport functions such as scheduling, ticketing, analytics and cloud-based services; health care, to help transform the health care ecosystem in Qatar in order to deliver better quality and reach of medical services through home care, telemedicine, patient monitoring and medical emergency systems; housing and infrastructure, where ICT investment can help in the development of utilities, smart metering and energy consumption efficiency, bill collection, security and smart home applications; and last but not least, in the areas of cybersecurity and the IoT, where we have recently launched a facilitating platform.