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Qatar to fine Qtel over Virgin launch – regulator

The Company may have violated laws beyond telecommunication.

July 26, 2010 11:28 by

Qatar Telecom (Qtel) faces an unspecified fine and possible further legal action over violations during its launch of Virgin Mobile services into the Gulf state, telecoms regulator ictQATAR said.

“Qtel should be compelled to pay an appropriate fine for its unlawful actions during the period from 13 to 18 May 2010 and has referred this matter to the Office of the Attorney General for assessment of an appropriate penalty,” the regulator said in a ruling made public on Sunday.

Rivals Vodafone Qatar and Qtel on Saturday both welcomed a ruling by regulators in a dispute over Virgin Mobile’s entry to the local market in May, but there were signs the battle may have further to run.

“Furthermore, it has been suggested that Qtel`s actions during this period may constitute violations of laws other than the Telecommunications Law,” said ictQATAR.

The ruling asked for changes in Virgin Mobile’s launch by Qtel, but said that Virgin would not be a third operator.

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. It had said Virgin represented a third service provider.

“Vodafone Qatar is currently reviewing ictQATAR’s determination and considering its options for further legal recourse in relation to this matter,” a Vodafone statement said on Sunday.

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.

(Reporting by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Jason Neely)

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