ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Qatar’s Ooredoo strongly backs Indosat’s 4G expansion
The chief executive officer of Qatar-based telecommunications giant Ooredoo, Nasser Marafih, has reiterated the business group’s strong support for the costly expansion of the company’s Indonesian unit Indosat into the G4 high-speed internet service.
Marafih said in Doha on Wednesday that Ooredoo, formerly known as Qatar Telecom (Qtel), strongly backed Indosat’s plan to spend a large amount of funds to finance the expansion, although the Indonesian telecom company’s contribution to the group’s total revenues was still relatively low.
“The expansion into 4G is quite important, not only because of Indonesia’s large population, but also because of its market potential,” he told a group of Indonesian journalists visiting Ooredoo’s headquarters in Qatar’s capital.
Besides the financial support, Marafih said that Ooredoo was also cooperating with German e-commerce firm Rocket internet to build digital infrastructure and had provided financial support to start-up companies in order to help increase the use of broadband services.
He said the support the group has given to Indosat did not only reflect its long-term commitment in further strengthening Indosat, but was also part of its expansion strategy in Southeast Asia. Besides being in Indonesia, Ooredoo has also operated in several other Middle East and Southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar.
Indosat has so far provided super 4G long-term evolution (LTE) services in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Bali and Balikpapan. The company is currently modernizing its networks to support its expansion into 4G service. In addition to Indosat, Indonesia’s other mobile phone operators, including Telekomunikasi Selular (Telkomsel) and XL Axiata and Smartfren Telecom, have also announced commitments to deploy 4G network operations. They have all launched 4G services on the 1.8 GHz frequency in selected cities in the middle of this year.
Ooredoo has become a major global telecommunications operator through the acquisition of telecommunications companies in Kuwait, Tunisia, the Maldives, Algeria, Palestine, Myanmar, Oman and
QTel’s involvement in the ownership of Indosat dated back to 2008 when the company, through Indonesia Communications Limited (ICLM) and Indonesia Communication Pte. Ltd. (ICLS), indirectly acquired 40.81 percent of Indosat’s shares. In 2009, the Middle Eastern company boosted its stake to 65 percent. Now the government owns only 14.29 percent in Indosat and public investors hold another 14.29 percent.
Indosat, the Ooredoo Group’s Indonesian unit, has become an important contributor toward the group’s subscribers and revenues. In the first half of this year, Indosat, with about 66.5 million subscribers, contributed the largest number of group’s total subscribers. In term of revenues, Indosat contributed 21.6 percent, the second largest portion after the group’s subsidiary in Qatar.
Ooredoo’s CEO Marafih, however, said the government should provide a more conducive climate for the promotion of telecommunications services, especially internet services such as by easing taxation on the purchases of mobile devices.
According to him, telecommunications operators deserve to get special tax treatment given their important role in promoting digital connectivity, which plays a major role in improving the lives of people. “Telecom companies should not be treated the same as tobacco firms,” he said.
He said with the support of the local government, the group’s business unit in Qatar had developed a successful 4G service. As of the first half of this year, Ooredoo Qatar recorded more than 3 million customers and about 33.8 percent of them are using 4G and 4G+ services.
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