The past decade witnessed the growth and development of Qatar’s Information and Communications (ICT) landscape owing to the support and wise leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Perhaps the highlight of Qatar’s ICT supremacy was manifested during the successful hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup where various technologies and innovation were utilised by the Qatari government to deliver “the best World Cup ever.”
“Qatar’s ICT sector is stepping boldly onto the world stage, ready and committed to establishing Qatar as a regional and global digital hub,” stated HE the Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohamed bin Ali al-Mannai in the Communications and Regulatory Authority’s (CRA) ‘Qatar’s ICT Landscape & Digital Trends 2022 – Supply-Side Market Outlook’, which was released in March this year.
Following its establishment in February 2014 through Amiri Decree No 42, the CRA continues to bring a broad range of innovative, high-quality, and reasonably priced communications services to individuals, businesses, and the government.
The CRA, in its 2014-2015 Annual Report, stated that Qatar’s telecommunications market was “healthy and growing, and investment in the sector remains strong, with increased revenues and market size, new products, and stable net profits.”
“Consumers are benefiting from wide-ranging consumer protection efforts, including a dispute resolution mechanism, a new advertising code of conduct, the Consumer Protection Policy, among others...a robust regulatory and legal framework that supports the development of the sector continues to be put in place,” the CRA reported.
In its 2021 Annual Report, CRA highlighted further developments across the past several years, such as the ICT sector’s increased contribution to Qatar’s GDP by 7.6%, totalling QR10.3bn.
In 2018, Qatar’s telecommunications providers, Ooredoo and Vodafone, launched their respective 5G-related projects, ushering a new era in the country’s mobile ecosystem and other innovation-intensive industries. But according to CRA’s 2021 Annual Report, the country’s 5G coverage reached just under 100% of Qatar’s population by Q4 2020.
“We are particularly proud of the many signs of acceleration in the digital ecosystem and the significant investments in data centres and cloud infrastructure made by both global and local companies. Private investment in innovative startups in fintech, e-sports, and delivery technology increased during 2021,” the report stated.
Al-Mannai, in the ICT Landscape & Digital Trends 2022 report, emphasised that Qatar National Vision 2030 “highlights the transformative role that the ICT sector must play in realising this bright, ambitious future.”
He said: “The sector will enable Qatar’s growth, solidifying the foundation of a new knowledge-based economy powered by digital tools. ICT can be the power engine that brings forth new ways of living and doing business, sustainably in an environment where Qatar can further lead and grow.”
According to al-Mannai, CRA’s Strategy 2020-2024 was designed to support Qatar National Vision 2030 and national development strategies by fostering the ICT sector in Qatar.
“The CRA’s strategy has set an ambitious target to achieve 50% growth in the IT industry by 2024, with part of this growth to be driven by multiple e-government and smart city initiatives,” he stressed.
The ICT Landscape & Digital Trends 2022 report stated that Qatar’s ICT sector currently contributes 2.7% to the country’s non-hydrocarbon real GDP.
“Although less than other GCC states and advanced ICT economies, this share has been growing in recent years: the sector’s real GDP has grown at a 2.5% CAGR between 2016 and 2021 vs 0.3% of other non-hydrocarbon sectors. This trend is likely to continue growing thanks to the government’s strong commitment to catalyse the sector. For example, the CRA’s 2020-2024 strategy sets a 50% growth objective for the IT segment,” the report stated.
From a supply perspective, the report noted that the telecommunications segment “is mature and concentrated around a limited number of players,” also due to the relatively small size of the country.
“Starlink Satellite Qatar, owned by SpaceX, has recently been licensed to provide satellite internet services, thus adding to existing service providers Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar,” it said.
In terms of market landscape, the report stated: “As much as Qatar has developed its ICT infrastructure to global standards and further improve it through data centres and cloud connectivity, two major global digital players have entered the local market and will further shape up the nation’s digital landscape: Microsoft has recently established its global data centre node in Qatar, and Google is in the process of following suit.
“Furthermore, Google has just been awarded a framework agreement for cloud computing services for the Qatari public sector. Such market developments are promising to deliver the ambitious cloud-first and digital growth targets of the government and position Qatar as a competitive regional hub.”
The report stated that Qatar boasts state-of-the-art mobile and fixed connectivity infrastructure, including near-universal 4G population coverage (~96% 5G coverage and 99% fibre coverage) and mobile speeds “among the best globally.”
On investment and funding, the report said: “Around two-thirds of ICT businesses surveyed expect to increase their investments in Qatar within the next three to five years. This continues a recent trend that saw, for example, Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar investing in annual CapEx exceeding QR1bn since 2017, and FDI CapEx inflows to the ICT sector growing substantially.”
“Qatar’s government is already leading the way in digital transformation, and as we revamp the nation‘s digital agenda and are about to unveil an ambitious roadmap for the digital economy, expectations for the local ICT industry are also growing substantially. These mounting expectations are only natural, given the growing demand for digital innovation,” al-Mannai also said.
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