Interview: Mohammed Ali Al Mannai
In what ways can the CRA ensure transparency and independence in its operations, given that it is a state-created institution?
MOHAMMED ALI AL MANNAI: The independent CRA was created by emiri decree with a full range of regulatory instruments and enforcement powers to facilitate competition and protect consumer rights. This structure is in line with its counterparts around the globe. Our approach to regulation is to promote consistency, certainty, transparency and flexibility across all regulatory areas. We will focus regulation on wholesale markets and our work will be supported by a comprehensive competition policy. In carrying out our work, we will strive to balance the rights of the consumers with those of the service providers.
For me, the key to success moving forward is to accelerate a dialogue with all players to ensure we all understand the big picture for the sector’s future, and that all stakeholders’ roles, responsibilities and expectations are clear. Future regulation should ensure that the investments of all players complement one another so that customers benefit.
What will the CRA’s priorities be in 2016 to ensure fair competition between all operators?
AL MANNAI: The CRA just released a comprehensive competition framework to clarify anti-competitive behaviours in the communications sector, and the associated assessments and actions that will be taken by the CRA if a service provider is found to have engaged in such behaviour. The framework is the result of a transparent consultation process that engaged key stakeholders. We developed this policy to ensure the market remains competitive, and that all stakeholders understand that the CRA will not hesitate to investigate anti-competitive behaviours that pose a challenge to the delivery of effective competition.
In other 2016 priorities, CRA is in the process of developing a comprehensive and forward-looking quality of service (QoS) framework, which takes into account the needs and expectations of both end-users and service providers, as well as the ambitions of the country. The focus of the QoS framework will therefore be on services as seen by end-users, as well as on network parameters that are relevant to enhancing consumer experience. In addition, the CRA will periodically publish comprehensive and easily understood reports on QoS in order to allow customers to compare the quality of service being offered by the different service providers.
As the CRA’s mandate extends to regulating access to digital media, it is well positioned to be a pioneer in relation to internet services. Moving forward, we will be assessing sector dynamics and balancing policies and regulations that consider the economic impacts of digital media on telecoms service providers, over-the-top services, platforms or applications. To support this approach, the CRA will coordinate with other regional regulators, thus fostering the development of a buoyant and smart economy.
Are you satisfied with the pricing and customer service that operators are offering to consumers?
AL MANNAI: In 2014, the CRA commissioned a large-scale survey of consumers in order to gain more insight into their satisfaction with telecoms services in Qatar. Overall, the survey found that while a majority of telecoms users in the country are generally satisfied with the quality of services offered by their service providers, pricing, rate plans and complaint resolution were cited as key areas for improvement. Additionally, about one-fifth of consumers surveyed believe prices of various services in Qatar to be low or very low, and they believe international calling and roaming charges to be particularly expensive. These findings have been shared with Ooredoo and Vodafone, and they have expressed willingness to work with the CRA to address those concerns raised.