In the year 2000, around 5% of Qatar’s citizens were using the Internet and roughly 20% held mobile-cellular subscriptions. Fast-forward to 2012, an appropriate analogy, and 88% of the population were online and the number of mobile-cellular subscriptions in the country exceeded the number of people by around 30%. Qatar’s population is now 99% urban, it is youthful, it is highly educated, and its future is centred around information and communication technology (ICT) and the development of a knowledge-driven economy.
Vodafone Qatar has the privilege of working within a sophisticated modern communications infrastructure, serving discerning customers interested in high-end services. The complexities of providing a wide variety of services to our customers, as well as the direction of our company’s strategy, motivated us to approach ITU’s Standardization Sector (ITU-T) to discuss membership early this year.
Our analysis of both ITU-T’s established study areas and nascent work indicated a good fit, and we can now proudly announce that Vodafone Qatar has become a Sector Member of ITU-T, announced officially in a Vodafone Qatar press release.
Our reasons for joining could produce quite a list, but it is worthwhile highlighting a few, perhaps to the benefit of other operators considering ITU-T membership.
One clear motivation was that our competitors are here. Their ability to know the form of standards under development and to influence their composition is a source of competitive advantage if their closest competitors remain only implementers of standards. By the time an ITU-T standard (ITU-T Recommendation) comes to market, though free for all to apply, the companies participating in that standard’s development will have already conducted trials based on drafts of the standard, and they will know exactly how the standard should best be applied; leaving their competitors playing a game of catch-up. Our membership will certainly increase the visibility of Vodafone Qatar in the Arab region, and this was another of our priorities, but business incentive to stay in tune with international standardization work was too strong a motivation to ignore.
We will work in a range of ITU-T’s expert groups but chiefly in ITU-T Study Groups 15 (Transport, Access and Home) and 5 (Environment and climate change), as the standardization work of these two groups has the greatest impact on Vodafone Qatar’s business and its plans for the future.
Study Group 15 is the source of some of the world’s most widely implemented standards in backbone fibre-optic transport networks. The importance of fibre-optic networks for mobile backhaul might not be well understood by customers, but efficient backhaul is critical to the successful operation of mobile networks. The demands on mobile backhaul networks are increasing fast, in line with the explosion of mobile data use and the deployment of advanced mobile wireless standards such as LTE-Advanced, HSPA+ and WCDMA. Standards such as these need to coexist with earlier mobile wireless technologies, including still very widespread ‘2G’ TDM; and, in many cases, they will rely on hybrid backhaul networks making use of both packet-based and legacy circuit-switched technology.
The market is looking to the telecoms experts of Study Group 15 for standards to support the synchronized mobile backhaul needed to underpin today’s dynamic mobile wireless networks. This is work of which Vodafone Qatar must be a part to ensure that our efforts in mobile backhaul take us successfully through ‘4G’ and beyond.
Vodafone Qatar is also a provider of fixed-line Internet access and the strength of Study Group 15’s work in this domain needs no introduction. Of particular interest is the work on passive optical networks (PONs) and other shared-access fibre to the home (FTTH) technologies; they are an important step towards all-optical networks, and Qatar is heading in that direction
“Smart Sustainable Cities” is another ITU-T work area that we are very interested in. It is at an early stage, being discussed by a wide variety of stakeholders in an ITU-T Focus Group on Smart Sustainable Cities (FG-SSC) to provide a basis for subsequent standardization work in ITU-T Study Groups, coordinated by ITU-T Study Group 5.
Qatar is an urban nation and it is quickly becoming one of the most ‘wired’ countries in the world. The need to leverage ICTs to increase environmental sustainability is a high priority to Qatar’s administration, as it is to Vodafone Qatar.
Study Group 5 has produced standardized universal charging solutions, methods to recycle rare-metal components of ICT devices and means to increase energy efficiency, for example in best practices capable of halving a datacentre’s energy consumption. And, in developing Qatar’s smart cities, it will be essential to chart our progress using ITU-T’s standardized methodologies to assess the environmental impacts of ICTs and the emissions savings enabled by ICTs in other industry sectors.
Smart-city standardization work naturally encompasses a broad spectrum of technical disciplines. Our interest in the topic was what drove us to become a full Sector Member with access to all ITU-T Study Groups, granting us entrance to ITU-T’s work on topics such as machine-to-machine communications (M2M) and the Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Grid and Home Networking, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), Software-defined Networking (SDN), and Cloud Computing.
There is no shortage of ITU-T work in which to become involved. Vodafone Qatar’s membership will only be as valuable as we make it, and we look forward to working with like-minded organizations to ensure that our membership fulfils its promise and yields all the value we expect.
By: Kyle Whitehill Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone Qatar
Before joining Vodafone Qatar, Kyle Whitehill was the Chief Executive Officer for Vodafone Ghana from June 2010 to June 2013. Under his leadership, Vodafone Ghana became the second largest telecom operator in Ghana and grew the subscriber base from 2 million to over 5 million. Prior to that, Kyle joined Vodafone UK in 2001 as head of the Enterprise business. In February 2008 he moved to Vodafone India as Chief Operating Officer. During his tenure as Chief Operating Officer, the subscriber base of Vodafone India’s business grew from 47 million to over 100 million.
Kyle was educated in Scotland and has a degree in marketing and economics. Kyle is a keen golfer and supporter of Glasgow Rangers football club and is married with 3 teenage sons. Kyle and his family are looking forward to exploring and experiencing all that Qatar has to offer.