InterComms :: International Communications Project
  Intercomms Issue 23

Communications Regularatory Authority | State of QatarRegulating for the Future: Ensuring Consumer Services Thrive

InterComms talks to Eng. Saleh Al-Kuwari, Chairman, CRA Sub-Committee, Adviser, CRA

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Eng. Saleh Al-Kuwari, Chairman, CRA Sub Committee Adviser, Communications Regulatory Authority
Eng. Saleh Al-Kuwari, Chairman, CRA Sub Committee Adviser, Communications Regulatory Authority

As the Chairman of the Communications Regulatory Authority’s Sub-Committee, Saleh Al-Kuwari is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the CRA. He has the additional responsibility of developing the regulatory framework in the telecommunications sector in Qatar. Saleh also provides technical guidance in implementing the licensing regime for service providers and an effective approval regime for telecommunications equipment.

Saleh has contributed tremendously towards spectrum management, national frequency planning, spectrum licensing, etc. Previously Saleh worked as Deputy Assistant Secretary General of Regulatory Authority division of the Ministry of Information & Communications Technology (ictQATAR). Some of the projects that Saleh implemented for ictQATAR include the national numbering change plan, and the Qatar Domains Registry.

Besides several executive positions in ictQATAR, Saleh also contributed to the Qatar Electricity and Water Corporation in administrative and IT roles.

Saleh holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronics from the University of Bolton, United Kingdom.

When Qatar began its journey to build a vibrant ICT sector that would spearhead the development of a competitive knowledge economy nearly a decade ago, the leadership’s decision to invest in next-generation infrastructure and its commitment to a competitive telecom sector and a conducive regulatory environment provided the very foundation for progress in a short period of time. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information and Technology Report 2014, Qatar maintains its position as one of the most networked-ready nations in the world, ranking 23rd out of 148 developed and developing countries in its ability to fully exploit the opportunities offered by the digital age.

Today, the telecom market in Qatar is healthy and dynamic, growing at a pace that is outperforming the country’s population growth. With continued market liberalization, increased competition, new products, and enhanced customer service, revenue jumped by 11 percent, from QAR 7.6 billion in 2012 to QAR 8.5 billion in 2013. Net profits remained stable at QAR 1.1 billion. In addition, both mobile and fixed broadband subscriptions have increased over the past year, with mobile broadband subscriptions skyrocketing by 32 percent to 1,665,419, while fixed broadband subscriptions grew by 17 percent. The number of mobile subscriptions grew by 27 percent.

These figures confirm the conclusions of the Ministry’s own research as outlined in Qatar’s ICT Landscape 2014: Households and Individuals report—that Qatar is in line with the global trend of people demanding more mobility in their connectivity options, particularly with the increased penetration of mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Consumers in Qatar increasingly need and want the ability to log on to the Internet “anytime, anywhere.”

Establishing an Independent Regulatory Authority

In order to continue to support the successful development of the communications sector to make certain that individuals, businesses and government have access to a broad range of innovative and reasonable priced communications services, in early 2014, an Emiri Decree established the independent Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) with one overarching mandate: ensure that competition in the telecom market continues to thrive and consumer rights are protected. The CRA uses its full range of regulatory and enforcement powers to improve the regulatory framework of the sector (including regulation of the postal sector and access to digital media) and implement high-level policies set by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.

Qatar’s move to an independent regulatory authority puts our country in line with regulatory agencies in the region and around the globe. The CRA’s mission-specific responsibilities include:

  • licensing and approving providers, services and telecom devices and equipment and enforcing the terms of those licenses
  • ensuring the efficient management and allocation of scarce resources such as radio spectrum, numbering, and domain names
  • protecting consumers from misleading and unfair practices
  • setting quality of service standards and monitoring compliance
  • setting a dispute resolution system that is transparent, fair, speedy and effective
  • analyzing the state of competition in the telecom market to determine if further measures are needed to promote competition.

Meeting the Challenges

Today, Qatar and its neighbors are continuing to invest heavily in high-speed, high quality fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure to meet the growing demand of individuals, business, and government. And looking ahead, we know that demand for broadband access is only expected to boom. As awareness of the possibilities offered by broadband grows among consumers, so too will their expectations.

Unfortunately, service providers around the world are struggling to respond to the rising demand for faster and more secure broadband networks – and Qatar is no exception. In Qatar, the speed and affordability of both fixed and mobile broadband remain major issues. To address these challenges and improve and expand broadband infrastructure, connectivity, access and affordability, Qatar launched a National Broadband Plan in December 2013, with its broad objective to promote broadband market development that provides high-quality, affordable and high-speed services to all. However we know that it is not enough to have a good plan. The lesson we are learning from countries across the globe is that timely implementation and involvement of stakeholders is critical.

Therefore, moving forward, one of the main priorities for the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and the newly independent CRA is to implement the initiatives outlined in Qatar’s National Broadband Plan and to put regulations in place to enable economically sustainable development for the communications industry. Developing and enforcing the right policy actions is key to success. These include supporting healthy broadband competition, particularly in the fixed market, to give consumers innovative products and better services at affordable prices; ensuring scarce resources, particularly radio spectrum, are allocated and managed efficiently; addressing number portability in the fixed market as Qatar has done in the mobile market; devising and enforcing regulatory instruments that allow providers access to rights of way to existing infrastructure in order to promote competition and affordable service; and providing clarity to real estate developers on the process to follow for their broadband network needs for major projects.

A transparent, holistic approach to regulation

In June 2014, the CRA released “Regulating for the Future” a policy statement that in the words of Minister Dr. Hessa Al-Jaber, “clearly affirms the commitment to ensure that citizens will have access to a broad range of innovative reasonably priced access to a broad range of communications services through targeted, proportionate, and justified regulatory intervention.” This holistic approach to regulation will follow 6 key principles:

  • Promote consistency, certainty, transparency and flexibility across the regulatory framework, including constructive engagement with stakeholders in a timely manner, to identify needs and appropriate regulatory measures.
  • Focus regulation on wholesale markets to decrease retail regulation, expected to benefit the fixed sector in particular to reproduce some of the steady growth in the mobile sector. The intent is to gradually remove, where possible, intrusive regulation at the retail level to encourage service providers to develop better services and innovative products.
  • Develop where necessary a set of minimum terms and conditions on all networks and service providers including, for example, quality of service obligations, terms and conditions for access to and/or sharing civil infrastructure, and network deployment standards.
  • Limit the regulation on dominant service providers to address identified bottlenecks at the wholesale level.
  • Develop a comprehensive competition policy that will detail market behaviors that the CRA considers anti-competitive as well as describing how CRA will assess and address behaviors it considers anti-competitive.
  • Introduce a continuous monitoring of sector performance and development to identify trends and any obstacles that may hinder the growth of the communications sector.

Overall, international experience has demonstrated that providing high quality, innovative and cost effective communication services results in productivity and innovation across the wider economy and will play a crucial role in achieving a prosperous future for the residents of Qatar. In addition, ensuring the readiness of Qatar’s communication infrastructures for the World Cup in 2022 is critical as it represents a major catalyst for long-term development and sustainability of the sector.

Communications Regularatory Authority | State of Qatar

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