Qatar approves Virgin launch, wants changes
Doha, July 24, 2010
Vodafone Qatar and Qatar Telecom on Saturday both welcomed a ruling by regulators in a dispute over Virgin Mobile's entry to the local market, but there were signs the battle may have further to run.
Regulator ictQATAR said earlier it had informed the parties in the dispute - centred around Qtel's partnership with Virgin - about its decision, without giving details. Both Vodafone Qatar and Qtel welcomed the decision but stressed different aspects of the ruling.
Vodafone said that regulators have asked for changes in Virgin Mobile's launch by Qatar Telecom (Qtel) into the Gulf state, while Qtel said the regulator had ruled that Virgin would not be a third operator.
Vodafone Qatar said in its statement that it may still bring a lawsuit in the dispute. "In this decision, ictQATAR determined that Vodafone Qatar was correct in its complaint that Qtel had illegally violated the Qatar telecoms law," a Vodafone Qatar statement said.
"Our lawyers are reviewing the decision and will shortly advise Vodafone Qatar's board on our options for legal action that are in the interest of our shareholders and for damages resulting from Qtel's behaviour which has been found to be illegal by ictQATAR," Vodafone Qatar chairman Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Saud al-Thani said.
Qtel quoted the regulator as saying in the ruling that "ictQATAR has determined that Virgin Mobile is a branded service of Qtel and not an unlicensed third mobile telecommunications provider".
"Qtel today welcomed the ruling and confirmed that the (Virgin) service will continue to be offered," the statement said. "Qtel has always maintained that the service was the result of a brand partnership with Virgin Group, and that it did not represent a third operator."
In May, Virgin Group signed a partnership with Qtel to launch Virgin Mobile Qatar in a brand licensing agreement to offer a prepaid mobile phone service.
Vodafone Qatar had said it saw Virgin Mobile's entry as a violation of telecoms law in Qatar and the conditions to its licence, which cost shareholders QR7.7 billion ($2.12 billion). It had said Virgin represented a third service provider.
"Vodafone Qatar has noted that ictQATAR has requested Qtel change significantly how the Virgin Mobile brand in Qatar is represented compared to what was launched on 13 May 2010.
Vodafone Qatar is carefully reviewing ictQATAR's decision to determine if they (will) take further legal action with courts," the Vodafone statement said.
Vodafone won the bid for Qatar's second mobile telephone licence in 2007 to break the monopoly of Qtel in the small Gulf state, which is the world's largest liquefied natural gas exporter.
In May, Vodafone Qatar said it would take legal action against the regulator if it allowed Virgin Mobile's entry.-Reuters