HE the president of Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA), Mohamed Ali al-Mannai said that the celebrating the Qatar National Day carries great and deep meanings and significance for the people of Qatar.
He said that celebrating the Qatar National Day renews feelings of belonging and patriotism, and is an opportunity to show solidarity, unity, and pride in the Qatari national identity, and to express the meaning of love and loyalty to the country and the wise leadership.
In a statement to the Qatar News Agency (QNA), al-Mannai said that through the Qatar National Day, we remember past achievements and look forward to the future, to complete, under the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the process of modernisation, sustainable development, and prosperity launched by Sheikh Jassim bin Mohamed bin Thani, the founder of modern Qatar.
"At the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA), we draw from this day motivation to achieve our desired goals and renew our commitment that we will ensure the development of the telecommunications sector, the information technology sector, the postal sector, and access to digital media for the benefit of consumers, stakeholders, and the national economy," he said.
Al-Mannai presented congratulations to His Highness the Amir, His Highness the Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, His Highness the Deputy Amir Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad al-Thani, and the people of Qatar.
The Qatar National Day promotes the values of loyalty and solidarity among the people of Qatar, who work sincerely together to get Qatar ahead, said al-Mannai, adding: "At the CRA, we affirm the principle of solidarity and commitment to work, through the employees' co-operation and solidarity to play their role in contributing to Qatar's development, especially in light of the current circumstances and challenges like the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) around the world.
“The CRA always ensures (that it) contributes to achieving the national strategic goals set by the Qatar Second National Development Strategy 2018-2022, and the Qatar National Vision 2030.
Al-Mannai said that in 2020, the authority’s key objective was sustaining the operations and performance of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector during the coronavirus pandemic, to provide high-quality essential services to all sectors and residents in the country.
He said that the CRA kept looking further into the future and setting out ambitious objectives for development and growth, in line with the national strategic goals.
The CRA will soon publish its comprehensive five-year strategy, which supports the Qatar Second National Development Strategy 2018-2022, the Qatar National Vision 2030, and mega projects like hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022.
The strategy will embraces all sectors that the CRA regulates: the information technology (IT) sector, the telecommunication sector, the postal sector and Access to Digital Media (ADM).
The strategy defines key strategic objectives, targets and initiatives for each of those sectors to support the country's digital transformation and the CRA's vision for Qatar as a smart, connected nation, to empower a knowledge-based economy that helps in diversifying Qatar's economy away from hydrocarbons.
“We will implement the strategy over five years in close co-operation with all concerned government entities, stakeholders and industry players,” al-Mannai said.
He added that this year the Qatar Internet Exchange Point (QIXP) was launched with the aim of developing the essential components of Internet infrastructure in the ICT sector, ensuring the provision of advanced, innovative and reliable local Internet services, and enabling local networks to exchange information efficiently at a common point within the country, instead of exchanging local information outside the country, thus ensuring that Internet users in Qatar have faster and a more secure access to the digital content.
The QIXP also saves international capacity and helps telecommunications networks handle the additional traffic, with improvements to Internet quality, specifically reducing the latency when accessing content hosted in Qatar, which is crucial for sectors such as health and education, especially during coronavirus pandemic, he said.
Al-Mannai said: "Due to the QIXP’s strategic importance in terms of information security, Internet infrastructure stability, and sustainability in Qatar, it is considered a key factor in supporting the digital services that are needed to achieve the national policies and strategies, and to contribute to supporting major events that will be hosted in Qatar, such as the FIFA World Cup 2022.”
He pointed out that this year the CRA also adopted the Qatar Spectrum Outlook 2020-2022, after taking into account the views and comments by stakeholders, concerned and interested parties from the ICT industry on the CRA's public consultation conducted earlier.
"The Spectrum Outlook will be available and published on the CRA website soon,” al-Mannai said.
He affirmed that the Qatar Spectrum Outlook is unique in the region, providing the sector with an overview of the CRA's overall approach and planned activities related to meeting the expected spectrum demand for various telecom services over the next three years.
Through this document, the CRA provides a transparent and predictable approach to spectrum management in Qatar until 2022, he added.
"The CRA is also in the process of approving the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP), after it did a public consultation on the draft at the beginning of this year," al-Mannai said, adding that the plan is one of the CRA's regulatory instruments that is updated every four years after the end of the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC).
The CRA president explained that the NFAP covers all frequency spectrum allocations and services used within each frequency band in Qatar.
Through the NFAP, the CRA provides all stakeholders, concerned parties, ICT manufacturers and innovators, and those interested in the ICT industry the opportunity to know the details of all frequency bands allocations in Qatar, in addition to the planned services and systems within each band.
Al-Mannai also said that the CRA has published the Spectrum Plan for FIFA World Cup 2022, as it is one of the country's commitments related to hosting the event; the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) requires the publication of the Spectrum Plan two years before the start of the event by the responsible authority in the host country.
The plan considers all the aspects related to the hosting of the international event from a spectrum perspective.
Al-Mannai said that in the same context, the CRA started implementing its projects related to hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022 and associated with developing spectrum management systems, land-based spectrum monitoring systems, space monitoring systems, drone detection systems for unmanned aerial systems.
He said that the CRA has extended the licences granted to Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar to use the additional temporary spectrum for three more years, ending on May 31, 2023, which enables them to enhance the capabilities of their public mobile networks in Qatar and enhance the performance of various mobile telecom networks which, he said, will support their plans to provide various, innovative and high-quality services during the hosting of major events in Qatar.
On the CRA's efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, al-Mannai said that under the exceptional circumstances related to the spread of the coronavirus around the world, the authority has made substantial efforts to sustain the performance of the ICT sector and ensured the resilience and reliability of the sector.
The CRA's priority was ensuring Qatar's telecom networks are operational and ensure business continuity, as well as providing essential ICT services to all residents of Qatar and sectors in the country.
Al-Mannai said: "During the pandemic, increased demand of both fixed and mobile broadband services has been registered, as people in Qatar had to work and learn remotely, and stay connected with their family and friends.”
Additional traffic has been generated through the telecom networks and that put pressure on the service providers.
To address this, in March 2020 the CRA launched an initiative to implement a set of measures to support Qatar's people and businesses to study and work remotely easily and securely.
The initiative has been done with the support of the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) and in co-operation with key sector players – Ooredoo, Vodafone Qatar, Microsoft, Cisco and Google Cloud.
The CRA president added: "As part of the CRA initiative, Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar have doubled both the fixed Internet speed for residential customers and the mobile data for residential and business customers, free of additional charges.
“The service providers also made it possible for more customers to get connected to the Internet, by waiving connection fees and introducing new affordable mobile broadband services.
“Speed and data upgrades have been provided free to both residential and business customers from strategic sectors like (health and education, government units at the Covid-19 frontlines) and sectors heavily impacted by the crisis.
Overall, the telecom networks in Qatar responded well to the additional Internet traffic – based on reports of the service providers, it was up by 60% on average for the period March-July 2020.
In addition, as per Ookla Speedtest Global Index data, as of March 2020 the average mobile download speed in Qatar was at 95Mbps, well above the global average of 75Mbps, al-Mannai added.
He noted that the CRA supported initiatives that provided cloud tools to a large number of entities, enabling them to remain connected and operational in the time of social distancing.
Microsoft, Cisco and Google Cloud have supported businesses in Qatar by offering free access to collaboration tools and security solutions for a certain period.
Al-Mannai said that the CRA is currently working with the service providers to explore the new frequency bands that can be used to support the operations of the Fifth-Generation (5G) mobile networks.
Ongoing discussion between the CRA and service providers includes regulatory coverage obligations and quality of service to ensure the provision of the best services to consumers in Qatar.
He stressed that this year, the world witnessed major challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic: "Under the insightful vision and the wise guidance of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar has succeeded in flexibly facing and adjust to various challenges, limiting their effects, and turning these challenges into opportunities that promote sustainable development in Qatar.”
The CRA president said: "The CRA followed the directives of His Highness the Amir, working with a team spirit, mastery and sincerity, in order to respond to these challenges and ensure the implementation of our regulatory powers that contribute to the development of all sectors regulated by the CRA and to the diversification of the Qatar economy.”