PROGRESSIVE TELECOMS MARKET

Qatar 2019 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to H.E. Mohammed Ali Al-Mannai, President of Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA), on competition, introducing 5G technology, and the 2030 vision.

How would you assess the competitive environment of the Qatari communications sector?

Despite its small size, Qatar continues to be one of the most progressive telecom markets in the region, with the telecommunications identified as a key enabler of the country's economic diversification and sustainable growth outside of hydrocarbons. As the communications sector evolves and looks to support Qatar's National Vision 2030, open and fair competition has increasingly become important to encourage sustainable investment, growth, and success. CRA is working to ensure that the proper regulation and infrastructure is in place to create the right market environment and encourage competition to sustain a thriving Information and Communications (ICT) sector. The current healthy competitive environment that exists between the country's two service providers is a sign of the market's developing maturity. At the same time, increased competition in the mobile sector is having a positive impact for consumers in terms of reduced prices and increased service offerings. Meanwhile, increasing smartphone penetration is creating a larger market for apps, e-commerce, and other mobile web services. As consumer demand for telecommunications services continues to grow and mature, CRA is taking steps to ensure meeting this increased demand, through developing regulatory frameworks that reflect the continuously evolving structure of a converged ICT eco-system—one that depends on the availability of advanced fixed and mobile telecommunications networks. An in-depth analysis of the global ICT sector landscape indicates that the development of Qatar's telecommunications infrastructure is on par with that of comparable high-income countries.

How is CRA cooperating with counterparts in other countries?

CRA is highly active as a leader in the telecoms sector; we regularly attend leading world events to network, share knowledge and best practices, explore common challenges and partnership solutions, and understand the latest industry innovations. CRA coordinates with other regulators through its network and membership of the world's leading organizations such as ITU, UPU, and ICANN to discuss issues such as shared global use of the radio spectrum, international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving telecommunications infrastructure, development and coordination of worldwide technical standards, and the future direction of the postal sector.

How will the early implementation of 5G technology affect the telecommunications sector?

CRA has approved initial plans for frequency bands relating to Fifth Generation (5G) mobile service and it will be a reality in Qatar as of the beginning of January 2019. 5G will bring a new level of performance and characteristics to the telecom networks, enabling the creation of a wide range of new services, ecosystems, and revenue streams. While 5G promises some impressive download speeds, it will probably not make a great deal of difference to the average smartphone user streaming a video; the biggest impact from 5G is likely to be on the Internet of Things (IoT). In recent years, we have increasingly seen the growth of so-called cyber-physical systems particularly in industry, manufacturing, transport, health, and logistics. Furthermore, in these environments, there is increased automation and autonomous decision-making, and this is commonly referred to as Industry 4.0, not to mention self-driving cars and smart buildings and the health sector. With all of these objects connected to the Internet, considerable resources and bandwidth are needed to manage the colossal amounts of data that need to be gathered and analyzed in order to make these concepts a reality on a massive scale, and 5G has the potential to make this possible. I believe that 5G will create entirely new market opportunities not previously realized and entirely new business models will emerge as a result. One thing is for certain, faster Internet speeds lower the cost of innovation.

What is your outlook for the year ahead?

We will continue to initiate new projects, plans and infrastructure improvements in line with Qatar's 2030 vision of driving a knowledge-based information society. Looking forward to the year ahead, CRA will be working hard along with the stakeholders and service providers to deliver 5G mobile technology to the market in Qatar. In addition, CRA will continue its work towards the full transition from Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) to IPv6 before the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. CRA is part of the Global IPv6 Forum and to support this changeover CRA has developed Qatar's IPv6 Taskforce, which includes local stakeholders. IPv6 will enable higher levels of Internet security, contribute to the continuity of a robust connectivity across Qatar and will ensure the country's readiness for all new upcoming next generation technologies. In 2019, we will continue in close collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Communications to develop the new Postal Law, and will work on developing key related regulatory instruments for postal regulation. A key aspect to consider within the new law is the significant decrease of traditional mail globally, but at the same time providing a model for the postal sector as an increasing part of the e-commerce and digital economy. We are also looking to future-proof the regulatory framework. We need to consider the entire digital ecosystem, promoting the readiness and openness of the wider sector and make it attractive to investors. We will perform a sector review in the coming year in order to further align our strategy with market developments with a focus on information technologies and emerging technologies.