Qatar’s incumbent operator, Qatar Telecom, is under threat from Vodafone, after the UK-based operator won its second licence in the country this week.

In addition to the mobile licence Vodafone acquired in Qatar earlier this year, the Big V has also snapped up the right to offer fixed line services and plans to offer both from early 2009.

Analysts at Ovum note that although Qatar Telecom, which operates under the Qtel brand, has faced competition in the mobile sector with its international operations, it has never faced competition in its home market on the fixed or mobile side.

“With Middle Eastern governments starting to recognise the importance of telecoms in the development of their economies, they hope that liberalisation will bring increased development of infrastructure, increased teledensity, better quality of service, increased customer choice and more attractively priced services, all of which will put pressure on the incumbents to stay ahead of their competitors and prove beneficial to customers in these markets,” Ovum said.

Vodafone’s fixed licence win in Qatar follows the recent acquisitions of Ghana Telecom and broadband provider BroadNet in the Czech Republic. This brings the number of its subsidiaries offering fixed services to 13 out of 19. As Ovum notes, this is a big change from the days when the Mannesmann acquisition seemingly encumbered Vodafone with fixed line operation Arcor.

Ovum analysts Sally Banks and Steven Hartley, added that the fixed telecoms market remains a monopoly in most Middle Eastern countries, but said the status quo is set to change with signs that many countries intend to offer fixed licences during the next year or two. “Competition will come as a shock to many of the traditional state-owned incumbents in the region and they will have to diversify their current offerings to defend against the impending competition,” the analysts said.