Qatar has demonstrated its preparedness to implement the first phase of the new regulation on reduced roaming charges within the gulf cooperation council (GCC) for the benefit of telecom consumers in Qatar and the rest of GCC member states. The communications regulatory authority (CRA) of Qatar has coordinated with both service providers – Ooredoo and Vodafone – to launch the new rates from April 1, 2016, as planned.
“CRA supports all decisions that are for the benefit of consumers of communication services. CRA is also following up with local telecom Service Providers to ensure that the new regulation has been implemented as outlined in the regulation document and within the specified time frame. It is worth mentioning that both Service Providers have been supportive in complying with this regulation,” said Faisal Al-Shuaibi, international relations officer.
Implementation of this consumer-centric initiative is a direct result of the decision by the GCC ministerial committee for post, telecommunications and information technology to reduce rates for roaming, telephone calls, text messaging and data services throughout the GCC countries. Receiving SMS messages while in roaming will remain free. The reductions in roaming charges on both the inter-operator wholesale level and end-user retail level will take place gradually, over a three years period, for voice calls and SMS services, and over a five years period for mobile data services.
This decision aims at enhancing cooperation among GCC countries in the field of communication for the benefit of GCC citizens. As per Article 24 of the economic agreement between the GCC countries, “Member States shall take all the necessary measures to ensure the integration of their communication policies, including telecommunication, post and data network services, to improve their service levels and economic efficiency and to strengthen the ties between GCC citizens as well as private and public institutions.”
Adel M. Darwish, head of international relations at the telecommunications regulatory authority of Bahrain and Chairman of the GCC Roaming Working Group, indicated that reduction rates in roaming charges are to reach 40% in the current phase. Moreover, the first phase of the new regulation (2016) is expected to save $1137 million for mobile phone subscribers in GCC countries and to boost social welfare by $ 404 million.