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Qatar Telecom: One step higher with fiber

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The national broadband project, implemented by Qatar Telecom (Qtel), is a critical step for Qatar’s development and its national vision of building an advanced connected society by 2030. The project is also aimed at helping Qtel become a member of the world’s top 20 operators.

In December 2010, Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, squarely placing the Middle Eastern country in the spotlight. With a modest but growing population of 1.7 million, Qatar has never stopped driving for success in every field it enters. With abundant oil and gas resources, Qatar ranks as the highest GDP per capita nation in the world. A former host of the Asian Games, the country is known to the world for its unparalleled National Convention Center, top tier education facilities, sports centers, global broadcasting giant Al Jazeera, Qatar Airways and more.

Qatar’s National Vision 2030 outlines the framework to deliver an advanced society. Besides the basic infrastructure such as roads and buildings, telecom infrastructure will play a key part in this development. In March 2011, the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR) announced a five-year national broadband strategy, to deliver a nationwide high-speed, accessible broadband network.

Conquering “the last mile”

In 2009 the detailed planning and implementation of Qtel’s national broadband network commenced to being a new generation of exciting services to residents and businesses in Qatar. This network will cover 140,000 users within 2 years, a very ambitious and exciting challenge meaning that a majority of Qtel fixed-line customers will be served by fiber by 2012.

Qtel began researching many fiber based broadband network candidate technologies like P2P, GPON, 10G GPON, WDM PON, and xDSL to accelerate its copper-based access network for some time. After considering factors like the technology maturity, cost, network longevity, solutions features and time to market, Qtel selected the GPON-based FTTx solution as the foundation for its national broadband network.

GPON is able to satisfy the need for access speeds of 100Mbps+ per connection, ensure better return on investment, has been readily and widely available, and can be deployed in current duct infrastructure, hence it is able to be deployed quickly as the last-mile optical access. To support in the deployment of these very demanding plans, Qtel selected Huawei as the prime vendor.

The project broke ground in January 2011 and the first cutover was completed in July 2011. The first phase of the Qtel’s national broadband project will connect 140,000 users in Doha and surrounding areas. The project aims to cover the entire population of Qatar within four years. Once complete, Qtel will be the first operator in the world that has successfully delivered an FTTH network to replace its entire legacy copper network.

This project is also the largest infrastructure investment in Qtel’s history. As such Qtel has stated that this investment will provide connections to customers at speeds of up to 100Mbps. In addition, the investment means that Qtel will offer richer media services like high-definition TV and video-on-demand (VOD) with other enhancements. Moreover, the network will provide great support for the eHealth and eEducation programs, contributing to economic and social development.

Phasing out ADSL2+

According to Qatar’s National Development Strategy 2011-2016, the improvement of economic and living conditions can not happen without the development of information and communications. In 2020, Qatar is expected to build its eHealth and eEducation systems, maintain its leadership as a financial hub in the Middle East, while maintaining its strong economic growth. All these need the support of a robust, next-generation information and communications network.

When planning the national broadband network, Qtel specifies an average broadband speed of 100Mbps per connection targeted to meet the future national vision and support the nation’s development. The GPON-based network will replace the copper-based ADSL2+ network, enhancing the speed from 5-10Mbps to 100Mbps. To achieve this, Qtel has developed a unified plan for the access, core and transport layers, entirely replacing existing networks.

Most residential buildings in Qatar are large villas; each house has five to seven bedrooms. To satisfy users’ bandwidth needs, it is necessary to support multiple Gigabit Ethernet (GE) connections and often more than one line for voice telephony. For that purpose, Huawei customized the optical network terminals (ONTs) with four GE interfaces and up to four POTS interfaces. This new design greatly facilitated the launch of residential services and could handle even the most discerning home user.

For business users, Qtel will deploy Fiber to the Building/Curb (FTTB/C) and leverage its copper resources to provide optimal VDSL2 services. Legacy services such as integrated services digital network (ISDN) and primary rate interface (PRI) which use PSTN will be migrated to the new FTTx and next-generation network (NGN), and the old PSTN will be phased out.

In terms of operation and maintenance, Huawei N2510 diagnosis system can help Qtel locate faults quickly based on alarm information. The N2510 can narrow down a failure point location in fiber to within six meters, significantly enhancing the troubleshooting efficiency.

Preparing for new growth

As Qtel’s partner, Huawei provided end-to-end access, transport and IPTV systems to the project. The two parties set up an expert team in September 2010 to begin network planning, site survey and installation. In July 2011, Phase One of Qtel’s national broadband project was successfully cut over and services were launched. The end of 2011 is expected to see about 25,000 homes connected with high-speed broadband, and each home can support up to three to four IPTV services simultaneously. In addition, ONTs can enable the sharing of multimedia content at home.

Based on a deep understanding of services and the network structure, Qtel will deploy FTTx and provide high-speed Internet access to areas like Pearl-Qatar, Wukair, multiple residential housing complexes and West Bay business and residential towers. The operator has also tailored a one-stop solution for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), offering a unified service for voice, data, and wireless access.

The launch of mobile broadband network is providing users with better services and higher bandwidth. Enterprises can also enhance their data exchange efficiency by using the network; while Qtel has strengthened its brand image and is one step closer to becoming one of the world’s top 20 operators. The network also provides high-speed access to universities and research institutions in the country, enhancing the academic exchange and helping to realize the national vision.

The national broadband network will make an important contribution to the growth and development of the knowledge economy and the country as a whole. The network will contribute not only to individuals and enterprises with enhanced broadband speed, but also to the growth of knowledge economy. Once the project is completed, homes and enterprises can access the high-speed broadband services. In addition, the expanded network capacity will also bring a variety of new services, contributing to the nation’s education, entertainment, and applications.

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