Ooredoo’s many outstanding achievements in the areas of digital transformation, communications solutions, and IT, and the latest developments on the deployment of 5G technology and fibre were the highlights of Ooredoo Qatar CEO Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulla al-Thani's interview on ‘Pulse of the Economy’ telecast by Qatar TV Tuesday.
Sheikh Mohammed, who is also Ooredoo’s Deputy Group CEO, highlighted the partnerships the company has concluded at local and global levels to contribute to Qatar's 2030 national vision, and noted the role Ooredoo has played in combating the coronavirus pandemic. Looking at the overall situation of the telecommunications sector in Qatar, he explained the company’s aspirations and objectives in the coming period.
Ooredoo has signed a contract to provide the eight event stadiums with the latest smart systems worldwide, and will provide an exceptional and event-level experience
Qatar is the first country in the world to launch the 5G network through Ooredoo in 2018
Sheikh Mohamed said the company contributes significantly to the development of the country in various sectors
Ooredoo is working to help ensure that sports events meet everyone’s expectations perfectly in terms of communications and digital transformation
Sheikh Mohamed said the company contributes significantly to the development of the country in various sectors.
“We are entirely invested in this development and significant expansion, and we are walking in line with Qatar National Vision 2030 through our digital transformation projects in which we have come a long way, especially as telecommunications are a key pillar in the development, progress and development of countries.
“In this regard, we have signed a contract with the Ministry of Transport and Communications to work together on the Tasmu project platform, an initiative designed to facilitate and accelerate work on all aspects of Qatar National Vision 2030. As part of the drive to be among the world’s first smart countries, we have also signed with Microsoft to bring cloud service to Qatar, the largest such service in the region. Ooredoo continues to work to keep up with the latest technology and bring it to Qatar,” he said.
On the evolution of the 5G network project, he said: “As it is well known, Qatar is the first country in the world to launch the 5G network through Ooredoo in 2018, and this technology will contribute to the development of the Internet of Things applications, such as smart cars, virtual reality, and drones.
“It will also contribute positively to education, health and smart cities. Currently, there are some mobile devices that are compatible with 5G networks and are available to us, and we have started offering 5G services to customers through new communications packages. Yesterday, we also announced the launch of a new mobile internet device, the M5 NETGEAR, which is compatible with the 5G network and is one of the most advanced devices in mobile broadband service currently available.”
With regard to the 5G network coverage in Qatar, Sheikh Mohamed noted: “We have reached coverage of more than 90% of populated areas, and recent tests have shown the network capable of delivering speeds of up to 4.2Gbps.
“Ooredoo is among the first companies in the world to reach this achievement, with customers already enjoying up to 2.2Gbps, and it is expected that customers will be able to enjoy the higher speed after the completion of all logistics requirements, which we hope will be soon. Even with the 4G network, Ooredoo already ranks among the top five companies in the world in terms of speeds.”
On fibre optic service and achievements in this field, Sheikh Mohamed said: “It has been 10 years since Ooredoo launched our fibre optics, and the service is now available – with the provision of digital entertainment services – to nearly 500,000 homes in Qatar, making us a global leader in this field.
“Home broadband speeds have reached 1Gbps, and we also conducted experiments in 2016 and 2017, which saw speeds reaching 10Gigabits per second, proving our leadership and our success in providing integrated digital solutions to customers at high speeds. We have also entered into numerous agreements with companies such as UDC and Lusail to provide a range of smart and advanced services to the residents and companies in the relevant areas.”
On the company’s role in the preparation of the stadiums set to be used for the major sporting event being held in 2022, Sheikh Mohamed said: “There is no doubt that 2022’s football tournament being held in Qatar is one of the most important international events for which the whole world is waiting. We are confident that this tournament will be historic and exceptional, so we must make sure that Ooredoo meets and matches the level of expectation for the event.
“We have signed a contract to provide the eight event stadiums with the latest smart systems worldwide, and will provide an exceptional and event-level experience. These eight stadiums will be managed through a single control station in an experiment that will be the first of its kind in the world, and after the tournament is over, it will be agreed with the sport’s governing body to use and transfer the technology worldwide. So, we are working to help ensure the tournament meets everyone’s expectations perfectly in terms of communications and digital transformation, leveraging our previous experiences with impressive results in many such events and tournaments hosted by Doha, including the recent World Athletics Championships and the World Club Championships.”
On Ooredoo's role in combating the Covid-19 pandemic, Sheikh Mohamed said: “The coronavirus situation has been an unprecedented challenge for the whole world. On behalf of Ooredoo, in this regard, I would like to send a message of thanks and gratitude to all Qatar’s heroes on the frontline for their great efforts and sacrifices in limiting the spread of the pandemic.
“Believing in our role in social responsibility and our commitment to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we have taken it upon ourselves to contribute to the fight against this pandemic effectively, with our efforts being recognised by an Ipsos poll ranking us among the top 10 brands in Qatar in supporting the community in the fight against the Covid-19 virus.”
Sheikh Mohamed added: “I would also like to point out that this crisis proved the efficiency of our networks and the extent of our prior readiness for all conditions and possibilities. We established many initiatives to encourage the community to stay at home, under the umbrella of the #StayHomeWithOoredoo campaign.
“We supported education and home learning by doubling home Internet speeds for three months without any increase in cost, and doubling the speeds of mobile Internet for three months also without any additional charges. We gave away free extra data, provided educational channels on Ooredoo tv for free, and enhanced internet speeds to schools and universities free of charge.”
In terms of financial services during the ongoing coronavirus situation, Sheikh Mohamed said: “Ooredoo’s financial services through the Ooredoo Money mobile App proved invaluable to customers during the crisis, enabling them to transfer money in a safe and smart way without the need to leave the house.
“The importance of such a service was highlighted after the decision to close exchange houses, and we provided customers free transfers to enable all members of the community to send money home, thereby reducing stress. In the same vein, we also exempted our customers from fees for the download and use of the Ehteraz App. Finally, the company played a pivotal role in encouraging individuals to co-operate fully with the Ministry of Public Health’s efforts to fight the virus.”
Ooredoo’s charitable efforts as the coronavirus situation unfolded were also discussed by Sheikh Mohamed: “In co-operation with the Qatar Red Crescent, we have distributed calling cards to workers in a number of labour camps so that they can communicate with their families and friends. Ooredoo also contributed to the ‘One Day’ initiative in Qatar, which was launched with the aim of fostering community solidarity with people in Qatar who have been affected by the coronavirus.”
He added: “In collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and the Government Communications Office, we sent more than 5mn text messages to many members of the community to raise awareness of coronavirus, and we coordinated with the same authorities in distributing awareness leaflets to workers in industrial zones. At the corporate level, we provided our customers with free solutions to work in accordance with the latest protocols to ensure effective and productive work from home, not to mention our digital services that we have provided to customers to ensure that they can stay safe at home but still access all the services they need.
“Our initiatives have covered all levels of society, including both individual and corporate customers, and have taken into consideration the social responsibility of community members alongside a firm commitment from Ooredoo and all our shops to rigidly adhere to all precautionary measures decreed by the government for the safety of everyone.”
Commenting on price comparisons with neighbouring countries, he said: “We make sure that our prices are competitive, while ensuring we offer high quality services comparable to our peers around the world, but we excel in many areas and we are always keen to provide additional value.
“In recent years, the company has cemented many partnerships and contracts, and set up many projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to ensure the delivery of services at the highest level of efficiency, in line with Qatar National Vision 2030 and with our commitment to complete customer satisfaction. We recognise pricing can be controversial, but we always aspire to price responsibly while being in a position to satisfy our customers.”
In response to a question about the competitiveness of the local market, Sheikh Mohamed said: “The choice is always available to the client to select what suits them and meets their needs, and the presence of more than one telecommunications operator gives more options to customers. This is in the best interests of the customer.
“At Ooredoo, we have a huge infrastructure, we have reached very high speeds in mobile and home Internet, and we have many options for digital entertainment for our customers. We are still expanding, specifically in the area of digital transformation and the provision of packages. We have many customers with varying needs, and these options enable us to give them phenomenal choice.”
On the role of data in the company’s revenues, Sheikh Mohamed noted: “It is clear that the percentage of data business revenues is increasing. Tracking shows the contribution of data to Ooredoo’s total revenues increasing year on year, with results showing data revenues accounting for more than 50% of the company’s total revenues in H1 2020.
“The growing importance of data in the company’s revenues is reflected in the trends we see in the different markets in which we are located; a strong focus on digital transformation in different sectors and business areas will naturally see a substantial increase in data consumption. Entertainment, e-games, community communication, virtual meetings, working online, education and telehealth services all require an ever-greater amount of data.”
Ooredoo’s services to its customers do not stop at Qatar’s borders, he said.
“We always want to make sure our customers stay connected wherever they are, so international roaming through the Ooredoo Passport and our Qatarna packs is designed to suit the their needs when travelling,” said Sheikh Mohamed.
“The Ooredoo Passport is automatically activated when travelling to avoid billing surprises for customers; when usage bills reach QR100, we activate the Ooredoo Passport for free. Qatarna packages also provide up to 100Gb of roaming data to customers. We also recently announced the activation of the Ooredoo Passport and the use of data on aircraft through our Qatarna packs, a service that makes it easier for our customers to communicate while on board.
“This service is also linked to the availability of the network across countries through whose airspace the aircraft passes. As for the confusion about Wi-Fi services on Qatar Airways, it should be stressed that Ooredoo is not the service provider, but the sponsor, and Wi-Fi is provided through another specialised company.”
He added: “Believing in the need to provide the best services, and due to the high demand from our customers for countries, such as Lebanon, Monaco, and Japan, we have also provided the Ooredoo Passport and the option to use data available in our Qatarna packages in those countries. We are constantly working to add more countries and operators within each country.”
On Ooredoo's future aspirations and the objectives on which it will focus, Sheikh Mohamed said: “In the coming period, our focus will be on continuing to grow, develop and expand in the field of digital transformation, and enhancing our leadership in 5G services by covering more areas in Qatar with a 5G network.
“We will seek to capture new digital opportunities and generate new revenue from digital business. We will continue to enrich the digital lives of our customers by modernising and developing our various digital channels. We will harness our expertise and partnerships to grow the market by making the most of our customer base.”
Asked whether Ooredoo plans to enter new markets during the next phase or whether the focus will be on its existing companies, Sheikh Mohamed said: “We're always keen to study the investment opportunities that are available to us in a comprehensive way, always taking into account the best interests of shareholders.
“At present, we attach great importance to improving the performance of our existing companies in terms of network modernisation and the development of services that we provide to our corporate and individual customers across our global footprint.”