Qtel ordered to end Virgin Mobile Service
Doha, June 7, 2011
Qatar Telecom (Qtel) is taking steps to comply fully with the country's telecom regulator ictQatar's instruction to close down its Virgin Mobile Service (QVMS), the company said.
The regulator has issued orders instructing Qtel to close down its Virgin Mobile Service and remove the Virgin Mobile brand from the market.
The ruling marks a victory for rival operator Vodafone Qatar, which had long argued Qtel's launch of Virgin-branded pre-paid services constituted a third service provider in Qatar and so violated the terms of Vodafone's license.
"Vodafone Qatar welcomes the news of ictQata's decision," said a Vodafone Qatar spokeswoman.
The orders also require Qtel to migrate all existing QVMS customers to another Qtel mobile offering or provide them with a full refund of unused credits in their QVMS accounts.
Qtel has confirmed that it intends to automatically migrate all existing QVMS customers to Qtel’s Hala service. This will allow QVMS customers to retain their distinctive ‘333’ mobile numbers as well as any existing mobile balances. From that point onwards, Qtel’s Hala prices and validity rules will apply and customers will be able to recharge using Hala Recharge cards.
To complete the migration process, customers will then need to visit a Qtel outlet to swap their existing QVMS branded SIM card for a replacement Hala SIM card. Alternatively, QVMS customers can visit a Qtel store and obtain a full cash refund for the value of their QVMS SIM card (QR35) and any credit balance they have in their accounts, said a Qtel statement.
Qtel confirmed that it will also be de-activating its QVMS branded recharge cards and offering full cash refunds to distributors and agents who return un-used recharge cards to its outlets.
In May 2010, Virgin Group signed a partnership deal with Qtel to launch Virgin Mobile Qatar.
The ruling marks the latest spat between the two Qatar operators. Last week, the regulator rejected a claim from Vodafone Qatar that Qtel priced international calls at below costs in what could have amounted to anti-competitive behaviour.
Vodafone Qatar has built up a 27 percent share of Qatar's consumer mobile market since launching services in July 2009, according to its financial results for the year ending March 31, while 45 percent of Qatar's population use the firm's services. - TradeArabia News Service and Reuters