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Qatar regulator wants Virgin launch changes-Vodafone

Lawsuit is still a possibility.

July 24, 2010 3:14 by

Qatar’s regulator has asked for “significant changes” in Virgin Mobile’s launch into the Gulf state in partnership with rival Qatar Telecom (Qtel), Vodafone Qatar said on Saturday.

Vodafone Qatar said in a statement that it may still bring a lawsuit in the dispute.

“Vodafone Qatar … welcomed ictQATAR’s, the country’s telecommunications regulator, landmark decision in response to Vodafone Qatar’s complaint against Qatar Telecommunication’s (Qtel) introduction of Virgin Mobile in Qatar…,” the company, a unit of Vodafone, said in a statement.

“In this decision, ictQATAR determined that Vodafone Qatar was correct in its complaint that Qtel had illegally violated the Qatar telecoms law…,” the statement said.

There was no immediate comment by Qtel and Virgin.

The regulator earlier said it had informed the parties in the dispute about its decision, without giving details.

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 the conditions to its licence, which cost shareholders 7.7 billion riyals ($2.12 billion), and the telecoms law in Qatar.

“Vodafone Qatar has noted that ictQATAR has requested Qtel to 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 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 Arab state, which is the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter.

“Our lawyers are reviewing the decision and will shortly advice 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 in the statement.

In May, Vodafone Qatar said it would take legal action against the regulator if it allowed Virgin Mnbile’s entry.

($1=3.638 riyals) (Reporting by Firouz Sedarat; editing by Patrick Graham)

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