Mobile subscribers driving take-up, telco to launch VOIP service
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.