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QATAR

9 December 2014

8

World Business Times is a leading global provider of business intelligence and insight

Qatar’s Communications

Regulatory

Authority

faces no small challenge

each day: promoting and

safeguarding the rights

of telecoms consumers

while at the same time

creating awareness of the

responsibilities of the li-

censed service providers

within the country.

HOW a nation is regulated can be the

make – or break – for overseas investors

looking to do business in a country for the

first time. In reality there are few areas that

could be considered easy to regulate, but

the communications sector must be tougher

than most. Tougher because it is an area that

is constantly changing with technological

developments and also because it is such a

public domain, open to the scrutiny of many

and consequently often in the spotlight.

Setting up a regulatory body within the

fast developing state of Qatar to monitor

and manage the communications space was

very ambitious, but it appears to be paying

handsome dividends. The body responsible

for the communications space in Qatar is the

Communications Regulatory Authority.

The CRA was established in 2014

and regulates the telecommunications

and information technology sector, postal

services, access to digital media and

spectrum. Balancing the rights of consumers

with the needs of service providers is at the

heart of everything the CRA does and the

man charged with making it all happen is

Saleh Al-Kuwari (

pictured

). The CRA will

ultimately be managed by a president, but

until a president has been appointed, day-

to-day operations of the CRA are being

managed by the CRA Sub-Committee with

Al-Kuwari as its chairman. In addition to

managing the day-to-day operations of the

CRA, Al-Kuwari is also responsible for

developing the regulatory framework in the

telecoms sector in Qatar.

Al-Kuwari’s

previous

experience

includes periods when he was deputy

assistant secretary general of the Regulatory

Authority division of the Ministry of

Information & Communications Technology

(ictQATAR) and he has also contributed to

the Qatar Electricity and Water Corporation

in administrative and IT roles. Al-Kuwari

is ably assisted by a management team that

includes Dr Pascal Dutru, head of legal

for the CRA. Dutru was formerly general

counsel of Clear Channel in France and of

Alten SA, a listed IT services company.

Although the CRA is a newly-

established body, its foundations go back

some years. “The need for the CRA was

identified back in 2006. We needed a

regulatory body in the country for the

telecommunications sector so the CRA was

established recently to regulate both the

telecommunications sector as well as access

to digital media within Qatar. We needed an

independent body to do this in order to be

in line with international best practice. It had

to be a government body to make sure that

the telecommunications sector was being

regulated to international standards,” says

Al-Kuwari.

Prior to its establishment, there had been

a movement to change the role of ictQATAR,

by the supreme council, into a ministry but

in the process it became clear that the role

of the regulator could not be undertaken by

a ministry. There was a need for a separate

body and the decision was taken early on to

make it an independent body.

Even so, once established, the CRAwas

still faced with the same sorts of problems

that any newly established regulatory body

faces. Al-Kuwari says, “The major challenge

we face is that, for the time being, we are

a regulatory body in transition. We have

a decree establishing the authority but the

law that will define everything, including

all of our powers and authority, will be in

a further telecommunications law that has

yet to be issued. So we are working on the

new law and will engage our stakeholders

to discuss it and develop it. For the present,

we are still working under the former

telecommunications law, which creates some

discrepancies because it was created for the

supreme council and not for a regulatory

authority.”

The task facing the CRA at present is to

try to enhance the current telecoms law and

see what is missing and what else needs to

be amended to make it timelier and more

relevant. At present the CRA lacks real

enforcement powers and this is something

that is being addressed. Clearly this is the

kind of 360 degree review that requires

input from all parties. “We need to get our

stakeholders to understand what we are

aiming at,” says Dutru. “Our stakeholders

are seven licensed service providers, two

fixed and mobile, ooredoo and Vodafone…

QNBN is in charge of rolling out ICT

infrastructure only, Es’hailSat the satellite

service provider and some other satellite

service providers. Today these are our major

stakeholders.”

Another significant part of CRA’s role is

about education. “We need to explain what

we are doing, why we are doing it and what

is the objective,” says Al-Kuwari. “Shortly

after we were created, we issued a policy

statement explaining how we are adding to

the industry. At the same time we also had a

public hearing explaining what we are trying

to do. We need to get the stakeholders on

board and get them to understand that we

are here to help them and also to help Qatar

develop outside the oil and gas sector.”

In the meantime, the CRA is

pressing ahead as fast as it can. The

telecommunications sector strategy for the

nation is complete but the

CRA is actively engaged in

updating and refining it to

incorporate access to digital

media. “Most regulators

around the world are only

concerned with regulating

networked service providers

and if we include access to

digital media we need to take

into consideration their use

by the customer, which is a

different mindset, and is why

we need to review what we

had in mind in order to see

where the bottlenecks are and

how we will need to intervene.

At the end of the day we really

need to be focused. We don’t

need to issue 1,000 pages of

regulation that are useless,”

says Al-Kuwari.

The CRA knows that one

of the core challenges it faces

is winning over the hearts and

minds of industry players, both at home

and abroad. “The first thing we did was

issue the policy statement. This was the first

layer,” Dutru says. “We need to educate and

communicate and this means that we need to

change the way that we are working because

we were seen previously as a black box. We

were receiving information and providing

an answer without necessarily explaining

properly what was being done. The first step

in overcoming this is being more transparent

in the process and this is something that we

are committed to and we have made another

statement around transparency explaining

what we will publish and how we will

publish.”

The second change facing the authority

lies in the way that the CRA develops

policies that have grown in the recent past to

be much more collaborative. “We have many

more one-to-one meetings with stakeholders

or with the industry all together in order to

communicate our approach. We also know

that we need to improve ourselves and

so we have established a new internal

department for Planning & Quality whose

objective is to improve our own practices,”

says Dutru.

Naturally, the set-up and establishment

phase of the CRA is only the first step. The

really hard work will begin once operations

have started fully and the authority can

look ahead and plan and ensure that the

ICT sector in Qatar assumes a leading role

both regionally and globally. What do the

next five years hold in store? “What we are

looking for is not a volume of regulation:

we really want to focus. We want to see that

the share of telecoms services within GDP

continues to grow. We also want to make

sure that customers have a choice and that

they receive the service that they want to

receive…Choice, diversification and quality

of the service. If we achieve that in the

coming years then I think that it will have

been a success. We are working here for the

consumers in Qatar.”

Investment in the ICT sector in

Qatar is very important and will add to

the consumer experience as well as the

economy and the CRA is working to open

the door for such innovations by creating a

friendly environment for both business and

consumers.

One of the major challenges facing the

CRA over the next few years will be to try

to encourage the same level of competition

in the fixed line sector that it has managed

to achieve in the mobile sector. This is

the way to ensure that the end user, the

consumer is not over-paying for services.

“What we have in mind for the future is

to build a safety net for consumers so we

have worked a lot on a consumer code,

advertisement code, consumer protection

policy and by the end of the year we will

have finalised a quality of service framework

that outlines minimum service levels for all

the service providers. Once again, we are

really focusing on the customer benefits,”

says Al-Kuwari. “The biggest difference

from five years ago is that now consumers

know their rights in the telecoms sector. We

enshrined consumer protection as part of

our telecoms law in 2006. Consumers know

where to go if they have issues with service

providers.”

Choice, diversification

and quality of service

Know your

rights

The Qatari Communications Regulatory Authority was established

in order to promote and safeguard the rights of telecommunications

services consumers within Qatar, while creating awareness on the

responsibilities of the licensed service providers.

KARREN PRITCHARD

BUSINESS REPORTER

Amel Salem Al-Hanawi,

Consumer & Government

A airs Manager

Saleh Al Kuwari, Chairman of CRA

Sub Committee

Photo courtesy of Umer Shabib

THE

Qatari

Communications

Services Authority has created a

specific department for Consumer

and Government Affairs, to ensure

that telecom services customers are

aware of their rights before Qatari

service providers and to ensure they

are protected.

This key initiative aims to bring

the

Qatari

telecommunications

industry to the forefront of customer

satisfaction. In order to achieve

such ambitious goals the CGA has

published the following activities as

strategic to meeting its goal of being

the customer protection wing of the

CRA:

• Developing and managing a

complaints solution process which

includes a 24 hour complaints

hotline;

• Drafting

a

comprehensive

Consumer Protection Policy and

monitoring its compliance;

• Issuing a Marketing and Branding

Code and ensuring its adherence by

market participants;

• Developing and maintaining the

‘Arsel’ mobile application which

is a state-of-the-art complaint

and feedback lodging tool for

consumers;

• Publishing

an

online

live

coverage and network map for

Qatar;

• Managing the celebration of

the World Consumer Rights

day as an event that promotes

consumer protection while creating

awareness on telecoms rights and

responsibilities within Qatar; and

• Conducting and analysing research

and annual surveys in the promotion

of telecoms consumer protection

within Qatar.

The above CGA’s initiatives aim

to deliver on the Qatari CRA’s mantra

of putting consumers first. They are

designed to engage with the public,

enhance

consumer

experience,

and make it as easy as possible

for telecoms services users within

Qatar to file a complaint or provide

feedback through dedicated phone

lines, dedicated fax numbers, online,

through the Arsel App and even by

visiting the CRA.

Consumers in Qatar are increasingly benefitting from innovative telecommunication services