No urgency over 4G rollout, says Qtel CEO

Qatari incumbent focusing on $178m fibre-to-the-home network, 4G trials ongoing.
Dr Nasser Marafih said he is in no rush to deploy LTE in Qatar.
Dr Nasser Marafih said he is in no rush to deploy LTE in Qatar.


Despite the slew of recent announcements from Gulf telcos about the roll-out of 4G, the CEO of Qtel says that the firm will not be rushed into adding the technology in Qatar.

“We don’t provide technology just for the sake of technology – it needs to be driven by consumer needs,” Qtel group CEO Dr Nasser Marafih told Arabian Business.

“One of the critical things about 4G technology is the availability of devices, but that is something that is still being developed. We are trying to time it so that this technology will come in when those devices have been developed.”

The UAE’s Etisalat and Mobily, the Zain-managed Saudi licence holder, are among a clutch of companies vying to be the first to offer 4G or long-term evolution (LTE) technology in the region.

Both companies have said that the service will be available before the end of the year.

However, Marafih said that Qtel would instead concentrate on building out its $178m fibre-to-the-home network, which will be completed in around two years’ time.

“We are doing the trials and preparation [for 4G], and we are also in discussion with the regulators to allocate the right spectrum for those services, so that is ongoing,” the CEO said.

“We are concentrating on FTTH – which in our view is actually more critical at the moment than 4G. But it is going to come, for sure, at the right time – when the customer needs it.”

A recent report released by Frost & Sullivan noted that the Saudi and UAE markets were poised to see huge annual growth in the take-up of 4G technologies as customers demand more data services.

LTE services are predicted to grow by 54 percent in Saudi Arabia and by 84 percent in the UAE, with both countries's demand driven by a tech-savvy, youthful population, the consultant said.

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