Qatar launched a mobile number portability service at the start of the month, allowing mobile customers of Qtel and Vodafone Qatar to retain their existing mobile number when they switch provider.
The regulator said that the service is being rolled out in phases, and that full service availability covering the operators’ entire retail networks would be available in the coming weeks.
The process is being led by the National Numbering Committee, which was established by ictQATAR with participation from Qtel and Vodafone Qatar.
“Mobile number portability is an important part of the ongoing liberalisation of Qatar’s telecommunications sector,” said Saleh Al-Kuwari, deputy assistant secretary general, ictQATAR. “MNP will further empower consumers and we are pleased that both service providers have worked with us to make this possible,” he added.
Consumers who want to change service provider and keep their existing mobile number should visit the retail outlets of the service provider they are planning to switch to. At the retail outlet, consumers will fill out a mobile number portability application.The process of porting typically takes one working day once the application has been completed.
Mohammed El-Bashir, ictQATAR's technical affairs manager, added: “Both Qtel and Vodafone Qatar have committed to providing point-of-sale service to assist consumers with the process and to answer any questions they may have. We encourage all consumers considering switching their mobile service to another provider to carefully review all the applicable terms and conditions.”
Andy Baul Lewis, director, information and communication technologies practice, Frost & Sullivan, said that the move to provide MNP should “focus minds” but would probably fall short of having a significant effect on competition. “Realistically, where there is a duopoly and changes will not be significant. Vodafone continues to do well in Qatar, and have already prompted a more competitive position from Qtel, however there is unlikely to be an all-out, price-war in Qatar as a result.
“For true competition to make an impact, three or four communication service providers need to be given a level playing-field,” he said.
In the Gulf, Oman was the first country to launch MNP back in 2006. Bahrain followed, launching the service in 2011. The UAE, meanwhile, has faced significant delays introducing the service, which was originally due to go live in 2011.