7 Jun 2011
ictQATAR, Qatar’s telecommunications regulatory authority has ordered Qatar Telecom (Qtel) to close all Virgin Mobile services and instructed it to remove the Virgin Mobile brand from the marketplace. The decision was a result of an investigation into what the regulator called the ‘non-compliant launch of Qtel Virgin Mobile services in Qatar’. According to Telegeography’s GlobalComms Database, in May 2010 UK-based Virgin Media Group signed a partnership with Qtel to launch Virgin Mobile Qatar under a ‘brand licensing agreement’. The move was widely seen as an attempt to circumvent Qatar’s laws prohibiting mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Despite rejecting claims from Qtel’s competitor Vodafone Qatar that Virgin was operating as an unlicensed third, competing service provider in July 2010, the confusion led to a rebuke from the regulator that month requiring significant changes to the way that Virgin Mobile was marketed and the payment of an unspecified fine for transgressions during the launch. The watchdog said in its most recent decision that Qtel had ‘failed to comply with Orders and Instructions ictQATAR had issued to Qtel to correct its conduct concerning the marketing of its Qtel Virgin Mobile Services. This effectively amounted to contravention of Telecommunication Law No. (34) of 2006’. Existing Virgin Mobile customers will be transferred to a similar Qtel service or given a full refund, and all Virgin Mobile branded SIM cards must be de-activated by 4 August 2011.