Interview: Mohammed Ali Al Mannai

As the trend towards implementing smart technologies gains momentum, what is Qatar doing to ensure it successfully stays ahead of the curve?

MOHAMMED ALI AL MANNAI: Qatar is well positioned to leverage smart technologies with its advanced fixed and mobile networks. In 2019 it ranked second among Arab countries and 33rd out of 121 nations worldwide on the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index. All the main components for advanced internet connectivity are available, with a high-quality fibre network and services, 99% fibre-to-the-premises coverage and both services providers having recently launched 5G.

The CRA is developing regulations to support the adoption of innovative and smart technologies in the country. The new CRA Strategy 2020-24 will establish a regulatory framework for the internet of things and machine-to-machine technologies, participating in the development of a national artificial intelligence framework to provide a basis for industry players to innovate and implement emerging concepts like smart cities. The Qatar Smart City Framework will also be released in 2020, providing guidelines and direction for the development of smart sustainable cities.

What must be prioritised to ensure Qatar’s transition to a knowledge-based economy?

AL MANNAI: The CRA has a corporate mission to support the targets of Qatar National Vision 2030 through the development of IT, telecoms and postal sectors. It encompasses two objectives: encouraging investment in the national economy and fostering a dynamic marketplace through sustainable sector competition, where the CRA aims to achieve a fair balance between these objectives, and one of our main priorities is to enable a
thriving IT sector. Hence, our focus in this area will grow.

We will soon publish the new strategy covering CRA’s full mandate for telecoms, IT, postal sectors and access to digital media. It outlines key initiatives we plan to undertake to support Qatar’s transition to a digital nation with an innovative and diversified economy. The telecoms sector has been regulated for over a decade now, while IT has not been covered yet, so the strategy is to both address strategic issues in telecommunications
and introduce initiatives supporting IT sector growth.

Which key performance indicators (KPIs) are in place to measure the telecoms industry, and how is the regulatory framework being improved?

AL MANNAI: The CRA continuously develops and implements instruments to cover all areas of its regulatory role. For example, the Quality of Service (QoS) Regulatory Framework includes a KPI set that the CRA benchmarks through its annual QoS audit of mobile and fixed networks. In addition to that, in 2020 the CRA will publish an updated QoS framework with KPIs that take into consideration recent technology advances.

In the course of the new strategy, the CRA plans a full review of the existing ex-ante regulatory framework to address price controls, infrastructure access and sharing, and consumer protection. The CRA will further work with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to ensure effective market competition for the benefit of consumers, less entry barriers for small and medium-sized enterprises in the IT sector, increased digital adoption and more investment by global tech companies.

The CRA has been continuously monitoring the telecoms sector and collecting market data as per established core indicators. These indicators are relevant in the national context, and aligned with the International Telecommunication Union and other global organisations that are committed to studying the performance of the ICT sector and economies’ competitiveness. For example, as part of the strategy’s development, the CRA conducted an extensive sector review and looked at relevant benchmarks and global best practices. This will continue during the strategy implementation and as part of our usual business, and will be enhanced by studies on the IT sector and emerging technology trends.