State-owned passive fibre-optic infrastructure provider Qatar National Broadband Network (Q.NBN) has received a 25-year national wholesale service operating licence from the Supreme Council of Information & Communication Technology (ictQATAR). Q.NBN, 100% owned by the Qatari government, will lease passive fibre infrastructure to telecoms service providers on an open, equal and non-discriminatory basis, with a mandate to set appropriate national wholesale prices to ensure low retail rates across the country. The company has signed partnership agreements with incumbent national telco Qatar Telecom and second national operator (SNO) Vodafone Qatar, and has begun rollout of fibre infrastructure in Barwa City and Barwa Commercial Avenue, with a nationwide deployment set to get under way before the end of the third quarter of 2012. It is scheduled to take three years to cover 95% of the population with high speed fibre broadband and triple-play access. Mohamad Al-Mannai, Q.NBN’s CEO, announced that the official licence award would ‘mark the start of a new era of high speed communication in Qatar… to help achieve a knowledge-based sustainable economy.’
In a related event, ictQATAR has this week released its Technical Standard Guidelines for the rollout of fixed infrastructure, in accordance with the regulator’s mandate ‘to encourage and oversee the development of a progressive and competitive telecoms environment’. The watchdog states that the Guidelines are aimed at ensuring that all licensed service providers deploy their fixed networks in a manner that guarantees open and non-discriminatory access for all other service providers across Qatar. The Guidelines further seek to outline the current status of fibre infrastructure and prescribe the minimum technical standards for future fibre rollouts to ensure compliance with service providers’ obligations. ictQATAR has instructed all service providers to follow these minimum technical standards to encourage healthy and non-discriminatory competition.