Qatar launched its new telecoms regulator yesterday, as the Gulf Arab state made a bold step towards liberalisation. The Supreme Council for Information and Communications Technology (SCICT) is a new autonomous organisation that will oversee Qatar’s telecoms and IT sector. According to local reports the new body is being headed by Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s heir apparent, H H Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani. SCICT members will serve four-year terms – renewable for a similar period or more – with their salaries decided by Emiri decree. The SCCIT is tasked with organising the communications and IT sector to enhance the awareness of IT, creating an environment suitable to nurturing the development of the country’s infrastructure, formulating a national strategy and linking them to the national public policies, and supervising these policies. Moreover, the regulator has responsibilities for fixing tariffs, proposing draft laws, setting provisions and standards for issuing licences, promoting investment in the sector, and drafting contracts and agreements.
The SCICT’s secretary general, Hessa Al Jaber, said that one of the more pressing tasks facing the regulator was the drawing up of guidelines to allow foreign investment in the sector, though she claimed it would be premature to discuss details at this stage. Currently, the country’s 1998 communications law gives state-controlled Qatar Public Telecommunications Corporation (Q-Tel) a monopoly on the local, long-distance and international voice markets, as well as the data communications and internet sector, until 2013; its mobile subsidiary Qatarnet is the state’s sole wireless operator.