Although the number of Internet cafes in Qatar does not exceed 20, the market is characterized by aggressive competition. According to an Al-Ittihad report, the heated situation is attributed to the fact that most establishments are located in the capital city of Doha, as well as to the low user rate in this small nation of under 750,000.
The Qatari Internet subscriber base is presently estimated at 25,500, compared with the 1999 figures of 9,000. Internet service was launched in Qatar in 1996 with 2,000 initial subscribers.
Internet users in Qatar often complain of slow and expensive network connections, relative to other Arabian Gulf states. The relatively high cost of Internet use in the state is attributed by Q-Tel, the Qatari Telecommunications Company, to the small number of local subscribers.
In response to complaints by consumers, Q-Tel lowered per hour Internet costs this past January by 30 percent, from $1.64 to $1.15. It also lifted bans imposed on certain websites, considered offensive to Qatari society.
The state-owned Q-Tel currently operates a monopoly over the state’s Internet Service Provision (ISP) market, under a 15-year long contract. Until this contract ends, the private sector will not be allowed to establish IPS companies within the country.
Internet revenues in Qatar totaled 43 million Qatari riyals last year, compared with QR 36 million in 1999, QR 21 million in 1998 and QR 10 million in 1997. ― (MENA Report)
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