Although competition is a relative newcomer to the Middle East telecoms sector, it seems that the region has taken to it quite well.
Most of the regions incumbent monopolies, such as the UAE’s Etisalat and Qatar Telecoms (Qtel) have used the liberalisation of the region’s telecoms sector to forge ahead with ambitious expansion plans which, on the most part, have been a success.
The recent development in Qatar when a new licensee, Vodafone Qatar, launched a successful complaint against Qtel and its new ‘consumer brand’ Virgin Mobile shows that the region’s telecoms companies are taking the new threat of competition very seriously.
Qatar’s Supreme Council for Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar) agreed with Vodafone Qatar in that the Virgin Mobile brand looked to consumers like a de facto third mobile phone operator in the Gulf state.
The issue has now been resolved and although Qtel faces possible censure from the Qatar authorities, it still gets to keep the Virgin Mobile brand, albeit with Qtel branding attached.
While Vodafone Qatar was found to be in the right and does deserve sympathy, to go with the damages they will probably be in line for, Qtel’s decision to fight fire with fire in regards to recognisable brand names was an admittedly clever manoeuvre.
Vodafone Qatar has taken a 19 per cent market share from Qtel since it started its operations in March 2009.
If the company thought that Qtel was going to give up any more of its business without a fight, then the Virgin Mobile launch will definitely be making Vodafone Qatar think again.