Vodafone Qatar eyes profit in Q4 – CEO

Mobile subscribers driving take-up, telco to launch VOIP service
By Edward Attwood
Sun 17 Oct 2010 12:21 PM

Vodafone
Qatar, the second telecoms licensee in the Gulf state, is hoping to make its
first profit in the last quarter of this year, driven by the swift take-up in
mobile customers.

“We’ve been
saying for a while that we’re close [to turning a profit]; we’ve now integrated
the mobile and fixed businesses together, and the mobile business is very
close,” Vodafone Qatar CEO Grahame Maher told Arabian Business. 

“Putting
the fixed business in means probably the next quarter – not this one – but
probably the one after we will see a positive quarter.”

The firm
recently announced that it had 600,000 mobile customers – giving it a 38
percent share of the local market – at the end of September. 

Maher said
that the majority of Vodafone Qatar’s customers had come from workers and
short-term expats, but that the firm was now targeting Qataris, Gulf Arabs,
other Arabs from the MENA region, long-term residents and businesses.

He also
revealed that the telco was considering launching a voice over internet
protocol (VOIP) service to compete with Skype.

“We have
lots of people using Skype on our services now and we’re very happy about that
as they pay us for it,” Maher said.

“Can we do
what Skype does? Yes. Should we? Yes. How? I’m not sure. We will see that a lot
more of the traffic we carry will be IP, whether you are downloading data or
making a phone call. I see Skype as a competitor and we will therefore need the
price to beat it.”

However,
the CEO said that there was no room for another mobile operator in Qatar.

“We’ve got
1.7m people, and I think in many countries we’re seeing too many operators,”
Maher added.

“The key
thing for this country going forward, and for the regulator, is the national
broadband network. And that will need government investment just like the
airport, just like the subway. They should have two operators involved because
you get competition, but putting in three doesn’t really help.”

Vodafone
Qatar launched services in March last year, competing against incumbent Qtel.

A joint venture between Vodafone Group and Qatar
Foundation hold 45 percent of Vodafone Qatar’s shares, with 40 percent listed
on the Qatar Exchange. 

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