Qatar Scores Big with 5G Network at World Cup

As the FIFA World Cup kicked off over the weekend, Qatar was wired up and ready with 5G technology. Throngs of fans engaging in the premier global football event will benefit from access to peak gigabit speeds provided by Vodafone Qatar and Ooredoo Qatar.

The whole country, however, has benefited from increased investment in wireless communications infrastructure. Mid-band spectrum has also been allocated making high-speed internet possible.

The story of how the country came to have a healthy cellular duopoly began four years ago when the government purchased a controlling share of Vodafone through the state-backed Qatar Foundation. The new owners employed a turnaround strategy that improved the operator’s reach, network performance, revenue growth, and customer acquisition rates, according to VanillaPlus. 

Vodafone Qatar has invested heavily in its 5G network and plans near universal coverage by the end of 2022. Additionally, it has partnered with the official transportation company in Qatar to launch a public WiFi service on over 4,000 buses and 1,000 taxis across the country. The service will enable residents, visitors and fans to stay connected for free via Vodafone’s network while on the move.

“Vodafone Qatar’s resurgence as a stronger competitor to market leader Ooredoo Qatar has taken place at a key juncture for the Qatari market — the arrival of 5G,” according to GSMA, as well as the arrival of the World Cup. Ooredoo has also invested heavily in its 5G networks, covering 99.5 percent of the population by Q1 2022.

“This drive to increase coverage and rapidly migrate users to 5G means that Qatar is among the top markets globally in terms of 5G availability,” GSMA said. 

In March, Ooredoo was selected by FIFA as the Official Global Connectivity Services Provider, which involves providing connectivity services to all media rights licensees in Qatar and a dedicated network to support broadcast video production and distribution. Ericsson partnered with Ooredoo in November 2021, to provide network optimization and event management services, covering 5G services in fan zones, stadiums, airports, and major tourist attractions. 

From Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail and Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor to Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah and Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Ooredoo has deployed more than 8,466 multi-beam antennas connecting more than 310 miles of RF cables and over 125 miles of fiber, covering the eight stadiums, the carrier said. The areas surrounding the stadiums are covered with 41 smart pole oDAS solutions and more than 45 outdoor macro tower sites. Mobile network services with 5,000+ cells, TETRA services and WiFi backbone will offer multiple digital technologies to the soccer fans in attendance.

As a result of the investment, Ooredoo achieved median 5G download speeds in Q2 2022 of 450.08 Mbps compared with Vodafone’s 426.04 Mbps. Additionally, Vodafone had upload speeds of 28.61 Mbps compared to Ooredoo’s 26.76 Mbps. 

Spectrum also played a part in Qatar’s wireless success. Early in 2019, regulators authorized Vodafone Qatar and Ooredoo Qatar to access 100 MHz of C-band spectrum for the deployment of 5G before the end of 2020. The move was designed to have an impact in all densely populated areas and to provide coverage of roads and highways, as well as all of the venues associated with the World Cup.

By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor

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