26 Jul 2010
Qatari telecoms regulator ictQATAR has announced that Qatar Telecom (Qtel) faces an unspecified fine over alleged legal violations in its recent launch of a mobile service partnership with UK-backed Virgin Mobile, which rival Vodafone Qatar complained constituted an unlicensed third mobile service provider. ‘Qtel should be compelled to pay an appropriate fine for its unlawful actions during the period from 13 to 18 May 2010 and [ictQATAR] has referred this matter to the Office of the Attorney General for assessment of an appropriate penalty,’ the regulator said in a ruling on Sunday, as reported by Reuters. The decision also ordered Qtel to make significant changes to how the Virgin Mobile brand was represented in Qatar. ‘Furthermore, it has been suggested that Qtel’s actions during this period may constitute violations of laws other than the Telecommunications Law,’ added ictQATAR. In May Virgin Group signed a partnership with Qtel to launch Virgin Mobile Qatar in a ‘brand licensing agreement’ to offer a pre-paid mobile phone service, but initially the move was widely interpreted to be akin to a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) launch – not yet permitted in the country pending further regulatory reviews of the sector. Qtel said it welcomed aspects of ictQATAR’s announcement which recognised that Virgin Mobile Qatar was not an unlicensed third mobile service provider. A statement from Vodafone Qatar on Sunday said that the company is reviewing the regulatory determination and considering its options for further legal recourse.