Telecoms & IT

Casting a Wider Net

Ooredoo Expansion

Through its economic development, Qatar has continued to put a heavy emphasis on ensuring the digital connectivity of its inhabitants. Qatar was ranked first worldwide in terms of individuals using […]

Through its economic development, Qatar has continued to put a heavy emphasis on ensuring the digital connectivity of its inhabitants. Qatar was ranked first worldwide in terms of individuals using the internet in developing countries in 2014, with 91.5%, and was ranked first among Arab countries. Similarly, Qatar also came first among all Arab countries and 12th worldwide, followed by Bahrain with 91% and the UAE with 90.4%. Despite these successes, Ooredoo, the country’s state-owned telecoms operator, has spearheaded the campaign to drive faster and more comprehensive digital connectivity through its broadband and fiber networks. However, Qatar’s mobile broadband push has not been limited to solely domestic expansion. Instead, Ooredoo is pursuing an aggressive international expansion strategy to complement its domestic growth.

Ooredoo has been making major pushes since 2014 to integrate fiber optic technologies to the connectivity to both the private consumer as well as businesses. In May 2014, Ooredoo pushed fiber optics to more than 100,000 homes in the country, representing a substantial sum given Qatar’s small population. By year-end 2014, Ooredoo hit the 200,000 customer milestone, thereby doubling the total fiber optic customers in about seven months. Not only this, but currently Ooredoo is adding about 9,000 customers per month to its fiber networks. By the end of 2015, Ooredoo is seeking to finish the saturation of the country with 4G+ services and 100% penetration of fiber optic technologies in strategic areas of Qatar. Despite these successes, the fundamental challenge for future growth for Ooredoo has been the limitations of the amount of users in Qatar. In other words, given Qatar’s small population size, Ooredoo’s growth in the country is limited. In recognition of this, Ooredoo has adopted an international expansion strategy to capitalize on the firm financial backing of the company coupled by its expertise in rolling out broadband technology and infrastructure to developing markets. As such, Ooredoo has expanded globally with its footprint now in Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Algeria, Tunisia, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, and Pakistan.

One of the largest opportunities that Ooredoo is pursuing in its international strategy expansion is Myanamar. As of October 2015, Ooredoo’s Myanmar operations struck a $150 million deal with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s investment arm, to co-finance its ambitious developments of mobile phone infrastructure in the company. As stated by Ooredoo Myanmar’s CEO, “The loan will contribute to financing the rollout of the company’s national 3G mobile network in Myanmar, as well as licensee payment and operating expenses.“ However, this loan pales in comparison to the already invested $1.4 billion that Ooredoo has put into the country. By the end of 2014, Ooredoo’s network in Myanmar is expected to cover more than 85% of the population in comparison to only 30% by mid-August 2014 and expected full coverage of 100% of the population by 2019. The company is looking to establish more than 3,000 towers in the country and increase its current fiber cable capacity from 5,000km to more than 12,000km.

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