Intervhiew: Sheikh Saud bin Nasser Al Thani
With ownership of smartphones higher than the proportion of customers with broadband access, how are services being developed to further penetrate this changing market?
SHEIKH SAUDBIN NASSER AL THANI: The smartphone market and the exponential growth in demand for data is driving the development of our industry. We ensure that the latest devices are immediately available in Qatar and promote the development of a range of targeted applications that meet the needs of the people of the region. We worked with Research in Motion, for example, on a special symposium in Qatar to develop a series of initiatives for our BlackBerry customers. This was followed by our contribution to the opening of the first Mobile Entertainment Forum office in Qatar.
There are also substantial investments in building a next-generation 4G LTE network, due to be launched commercially at the end of 2012. The speed of this network will be three to six times faster than existing networks and will help support the ongoing evolution of smartphone use in Qatar.
How will the LTE programme further distinguish Qatar from regional neighbours, and what are the expected long-term economic gains?
SHEIKH SAUD: Consumers that will be using the 4G LTE network in Doha will have incredibly fast access to high-bandwidth content such as high-definition videos and the ability to upload and download large files through the latest generation 4G USB modems and Mi-Fi devices. The 4G LTE network will offer speeds that are three to six times faster than 3G. It will improve penetration and also enhance services for 2G and 3G customers, since it will enable better network management.
Studies have shown that improving mobile networks can transform economies. Jobs and businesses are created, markets operate more efficiently, and public services improve. According to the World Bank, a 10% increase in mobile penetration drives a 0.6% rise in a developed country’s GDP and a 0.8 % improvement in a developing country’s GDP. A 10% growth in mobile broadband penetration drives a 1.4 % elevation in GDP for low- to middle-income countries.
What level of cooperation do you see being created in wake of the deployment of the fibre-to-the-home programme and the upgrade to a 4G mobile broadband internet service?
SHEIKH SAUD: We view fibre and 4G as complementary services. Both offer unparalleled high-speed networks, and our aim is to offer a seamless high-speed broadband experience across Qatar. Customers will be able to move from mobile devices outside to Wi-Fi hotspots in their homes and businesses without any impact on speed or performance. There will also be a number of services enabling business customers to deploy 4G and fibre in a combined offering, so that hotels in Qatar have the option to deliver a unique online hospitality experience for their guests, for example.
To what extent will 4G services become a major focus for operators as they try to grow their average revenue per user (ARPU)?
SHEIKH SAUD: The move towards 4G recognises the increasingly important role of data in the long-term financial and strategic health of communications providers. Data is fast becoming the future of our industry, and on a global level we have only recently begun to come to terms with the challenge of monetising data consumption. Access to 4G is therefore a big step forward as we look to stay ahead of customer demand and expectations, and consolidate our position.
How is strategy being developed in the region to cater to bundling of services to the consumer?
SHEIKH SAUD: Bundling these services in a wide range of languages addresses the complete needs of Qatar’s diverse cultures and families, and has increasingly become the service of choice for new developments in Qatar. Consolidating this trend will remain our focus.
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