Mobile growth exceeding expectations in Qatar

Qatar's two principal telecommunications operators reported better results than had been expected in the first quarter of 2012, following a relatively poor performance in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to BMI. While mobile subscriber additions and ARPU evolution are expected to lead to better growth, the latest quarterly data shows fixed-line and broadband adoption rates correspond to previous forecasts.

Vodafone Qatar outperformed incumbent Qtel in terms of customer additions during Q112, adding almost double the number of customers its rival achieved. However, Qtel still accounts for well over two-thirds of the mobile market and its more attractive subscriber mix - which increasingly leans towards more valuable postpaid services - means its revenue and ARPUs are growing faster than Vodafone's. The company is also deriving a healthy income from non-voice services and data ARPUs are growing well. Vodafone, too, says that data revenue is offsetting contributions from voice services, although it is reluctant to say what proportion of revenue is now accounted for by data.

Vodafone's focus on prepaid services should stand it in good stead for the next two years or so, as it takes advantage of the country's growing attractiveness to tourists and businesses, turning to the country as a regional hub. However, Qtel has a more robust long-term strategy, leveraging its ability to provide converged service bundles via its disparate fixed-line and mobile networks. Securing deals to manage the communications networks in key residential and business developments, as well as facilities such as New Doha International Airport gives Qtel the competitive edge and ubiquity necessary to keep the newcomer in check. Vodafone is slowly making forays into the fixed-line market, but still has not fully launched mass market services. Further delays will put its investment at risk.

Fixed-line services are expected to continue their growth, buoyed by demand for Qtel's triple-play offerings. The number of connections is expected to rise from 317,000 in 2012 to 351,000 by the end of 2016.

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