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Regional operators support liberalisation

Posted: 25 May 2003

Whereas privatisation and competition are bound to bring in more revenue for governments, more services for people and more value to the consumer, opening up the markets too much too soon could discourage investors says Wataniya’s David Murray who will participate in next week’s telecommunications and internet forum in Beirut

The advent of competition and privatisation in the Middle East’s Telecommunications industry is bound to expand the market, yet each government in the region has to consider every move before introducing new policies, according to Wataniya Telecom, the regional telecommunications operator that started as the GCC’s first GSM competitor in Kuwait in 1997 and has now expanded into Tunisia.

“Opening up the markets is certainly the way to go, yet, liberalisation could be a double edged sword” said David Murray, Wataniya Telecom’s General Manager, “Governments should not move too quickly because every market needs the time to grow and mature before it is taken to the next step. Regulation is essential moving forwards, it should be prioritised ”

Mr. Murray will speak at the mobile operators’ roundtable which will be held next week in Beirut as part of the Arab Telecommunication and Internet Forum. The roundtable is expected to address the subjects of regulation, convergence in telecommunications, the advent of competition and financing.

“We are at a crossroads in the development of Telecommunications in the Middle East” continued Murray “Most regional markets are opening up to competition and liberalisation which holds tremendous potential in terms of growth, and will give users access to state of the art services and technologies, but this process has to be carried out in a controlled manner if we do not want to face the same kind of issues that the sector is having to deal with in other regions, mainly Europe. We should not try to expand our markets too fast too soon.

"This would stretch companies financially, start price wars and de-focus everyone from the bottom line, which is the value that the sector can bring to consumers. To that effect, regulation is essential.

"Only independent and transparent regulation will give credibility to our markets and create healthy environments where consumers, investors and governments feel protected.”

Whereas international players were notably absent from telecommunications bids in the region such as the ones in Bahrain and Lebanon, regional players have been actively seeking expansion.

“Most of the region’s markets are relatively limited in size, which means that operators have to expand into new countries to achieve healthy
growth” said Murray “by doing so, they will get access to economies of scale that allow them to develop their business and introduce new technologies faster, to more markets in the region. But financial viability should remain the chief concern, at Wataniya Telecom, it is the main factor that we consider before venturing into any new market”

Wataniya was the first company to enter a GCC market as a competitor in the GSM sector when it was established in Kuwait in 1997, following 18 years of monopoly.

Today, the company holds more than 50 per cent market share in Kuwait, and is gaining ground quickly in Tunis where it owns 50 per cent of Tunisiana.

About Wataniya Telecom
Established in 1997, Wataniya Telecom is the second licensed GSM mobile operator in the State of Kuwait. With a market capitalisation exceeding US $1.5 Billion, the Company has been a driving force in increasing the mobile communications market penetration in Kuwait to over 54 percent of the population.

The Company recently expanded internationally in November 2002 as the second licensed mobile telecommunications operator in Tunisia through its acquisition of 50 percent of GSM operator Tunisiana.

With over 675,000 subscribers, Wataniya Telecom has built its success on a customer focused strategy built on the philosophy that ‘caring makes the difference.’

The Company provides a wide range of leading edge wireless voice and data services delivered with high quality and designed to meet customer requirements Recognised by a GCC Ministerial award in 2002 for employing and developing the national workforce, Wataniya Telecom is committed to employing, investing in and promoting local nationals within the countries in which it operates.


Posted by Richard Price, Editor

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