October could be the end of Qtel’s 20 year monopoly on the Qatari telecoms sector, as the country’s regulator prepares to auction off the country’s second mobile licence.

Final bids for the country’s second mobile license are due in September, with the winner of the second licence to be announced in October. Qatar is the only Gulf state that has not yet opened up its market to competition and it looks at first glance like Qtel already has the market sewn up – the country has a population of only 950,000 and mobile penetration is expected to hit 126 per cent by the end of the year.

But, industry analyst Pyramid Research, believes that there is still plenty of opportunity to be had. By taking a benchmark analysis of five Gulf markets that have recently seen the launch of a second player – Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE – Pyramid forecast that the new Qatari operator can expect to gain approximately 20 per cent market share by 2012.

Dearbhla McHenry, Middle East analyst at Pyramid, said that in Gulf markets, it has been shown that the breaking of the mobile incumbent’s monopoly typically increases mobile penetration by an average of 33 percentage points within a year. This is primarily because regional trends indicate that a number of subscribers will sign up to the new operator while still maintaining their old subscriptions, due to curiosity about the new services.

The unique demographic composition of Qatar means that there are some attractive segments a new operator could target, according to McHenry. Qatari nationals make up about 20 per cent of the total population and are willing to pay high monthly rates for high end data services. The remaining 80 per cent is mostly made up of more price sensitive migrant workers but this segment generates a high volume of international traffic.