01 March 1996

AFTER several years of rapid expansion. the Qatari telecommunications network is in for a period of consolidation. With spare capacity on both its public and GSM networks, state-owned Qatar Public Telecommunications Corporation (Q-Tel) is turning its attention to fine-tuning operations and introducing a range of new services.

Unlike other operators in the region, QTel is having to cope with a modest 5 per cent increase in demand on its public network. Nevertheless, the company has continued to expand the system, adding 80,000 new lines at three new exchanges at Wakra, West Bay and central Doha. The network is based around 10 digital exchanges with an estimated total capacity of 245,000 lines, of which approximately 130,000 are in operation.

Q-Tel has also been working hard to upgrade its digital transmission links. Fibre optic lines have recently been laid, connecting Umm Said, Ras Laffan and Dukhan.

Work is also under way on the Gulf fibre optic project, which on completion in 1997 will connect Qatar to the UAE Bahrain and Kuwait.

Qatar became the first Gulf state to inaugurate a GSM network in early 1994. The 25,000-line network, installed by the US' Motorola, currently has an estimated 12,000 subscribers.

Q-Tel has been expanding its services over the past two years. Its broadcasting service, Qatar Cable Vision, provides up to 33 channels. A further development will be Qatar's connection to the Internet in May.

The government has said that initially Q-Tel will have a monopoly over the service.

although it is expected that private companies will be invited to join at a later date.

To accommodate the growing band of international companies working in the country, Q-Tel has recently announced a reduction in tariffs for clients using international high speed leased circuits. Rates on systems operating at 64 kilobits are being cut by 40 per cent. Serious consideration is also being given to the reduction of international telephone charges by early 1997.

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