Home Living in Qatar House & Home Expat guide to mobile phones and SIM Cards in Qatar
Last update on March 16, 2020
Gayatri Bhaumik Written by Gayatri Bhaumik

As in most other countries, mobile phones in Qatar are a huge part of daily life. So, if you are moving there, you will have plenty of options.

In this day and age, being without a mobile phone is practically unthinkable. Luckily, in Qatar you will find many plans at different price points, and these are easy to set up. This guide includes the following information to help you get connected:

The mobile network in Qatar 

Like most of the rest of the world, Qatar uses a GSM mobile network. This means that you should be able to use your existing phone here. Mobile phones in Qatar will generally use 3G or 4G networks, but the 5G network is becoming popular, too. In fact, Ooredoo was the first company to launch a commercial 5G network, and they did it right here in Qatar. Currently, though, the network is mostly limited to parts of Doha. In addition, both mobile phone providers in Qatar offer 5G plans. 

Wi-Fi connection in Qatar

Wi-Fi is readily available throughout Qatar. In fact, it can sometimes be easier to find a hotspot in Qatar than it is in some countries in Europe! As soon as you land, you will be able to connect to a free Wi-Fi network at the airport. Similarly, cafés, restaurants, shops, and malls throughout the country have hotspots that will allow you to use smartphones in Qatar without racking up roaming charges. In addition, there are even apps to help you locate the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot.

Wi-Fi

The country’s internet speed is faster than average, which allows it to support this hyper-connected Wi-Fi network. The average download speed in Qatar is about 77Mbps, which is more than double the global average. In fact, Qatar ranks second in the world for mobile internet speeds. 

Can you use your own mobile phone in Qatar? 

As long as your mobile phone is GSM-compatible, you should be able to use it in Qatar. However, you will need to make sure that it is unlocked – as in, not locked to a specific carrier’s network. As long as your phone meets both these requirements, you will easily be able to get SIM cards in Qatar and use these on your own phone. Additionally, you should have the option to use international roaming on your regular SIM card. However, you will incur significant charges unless your service provider has affordable roaming data packs.  

Mobile phone operators in Qatar

When it comes to mobile phones in Qatar, there are only two operators. Ooredoo is a Gulf-based company with more than 100 million customers across the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. However, in Qatar, they are the main provider of mobile phones, sim cards, landlines, internet, and TV. Currently, Ooredoo is building a “Supernet” network which aims to make Qatar one of the best-connected cities in the world. 

Bottom view of Vodafone Headquarters in Qatar West Bay area
Bottom view of Vodafone Headquarters in Qatar West Bay area

You will probably recognize the second operator of mobile phones in Qatar. Vodafone is a major international telecommunications company with its headquarters in London. The company operates in 25 countries and has partner networks in a further 47. Because of this, Vodafone is ranked the fourth-largest mobile operator in the world with approximately 313 million customers in 2018. It offers several solutions for mobile phones in Qatar, along with TV and internet services for the home.

Pre-paid vs mobile contracts in Qatar

Mobile phones in Qatar have a 100% penetration rate. This means that everyone in the country has a phone of some description. However, the majority of these are on pre-paid or pay-as-you-go plans rather than monthly post-paid contracts. In fact, the number of pre-paid mobile users doubled from 49% in 2001 to 84% in 2006. 

There are many reasons for this. Firstly, pre-paid mobile phones in Qatar are significantly cheaper than post-paid contracts. Secondly, they offer much more flexibility; Ooredoo, for example, lets customers buy “flex” credits to spend on data or calls or texts as they please. Finally, pre-paid plans are a better choice for users who may perhaps only be in Qatar for a short-term stay. If you are planning to be here for a few years on an expat contract, though, a post-paid contract will likely suit you better. This is because these plans include many more features and, importantly, plenty of international calling and roaming inclusions.

Mobile phone plans and contracts in Qatar

Although there are only two providers for mobile phones in Qatar, you will have many options. Both Ooredoo and Vodafone offer a number of different contracts and add-on features that are designed to meet different needs. Generally, these plans are one year long and have a three-month liability period. Because of this, if you switch providers before your contract ends, you will have to pay out the remainder of the contract. 

Phone contracts

Ooredoo has two types of post-paid plans: Qatarna and Shahy. Qatarna plans are a good choice for expats because they offer 100 international call minutes and 30-100GB of roaming data. Additionally, you will get unlimited local data, calls, and SMSs within Qatar. These plans cost between QR380-QR850/month.

Shahy plans are better for those who do not need many international functions. The contracts cost QR110-220/month and have different standards of inclusions. For example, you will get between 6-14GB of local data; in addition to 250-1,000 local call minutes and SMS, and 25-75 international call minutes. However, you will need to buy international roaming packs at additional costs.

Furthermore, Ooredoo supports number portability for when you want to switch over from Vodafone. You simply have to go into an Ooredoo shop and present your Qatari ID (or passport) and fill in an application form. You will then receive a new Ooredoo sim card. After this, you must send an SMS to Ooredoo from your Vodafone card to confirm the switch. Finally, you will receive a confirmation SMS and your Ooredoo connection will activate between 11 am and 12 pm the next day; although it can take up to 48 hours.

Sim card

Of course, Vodafone also offers a number of post-paid contracts for mobile phones in Qatar. These are available as Unlimited 5G or FLEX plans. The Unlimited 5G plans come with a wealth of useful inclusions, however, the FLEX plans offer great value for money. As well as unlimited local data, calls, and SMS, the Unlimited 5G contracts include 20-75GB of international roaming, unlimited in-flight roaming, and 100-500 international call minutes. Additionally, you will get perks like QMiles with Qatar Airways.

The more expensive plans even come with valet parking in Doha! These plans are priced between QR300-QR750/month. Conversely, FLEX plans are – as the name suggests – far more flexible. With these, you will pay between QR110-QR150/month and receive credits to use on local calls, SMS, data, or international calls.

How to get a mobile phone contract in Qatar

Setting up mobile phones in Qatar is very simple; you can do everything online. With Ooredoo, you will begin by selecting the phone plan you want. You will then choose a phone number, enter your ID details, along with your full name, number, and email address. After this, you will have to choose a delivery option so that you can receive your new sim card. Finally, you will review and submit the request. 

With Vodafone, you will fill in an online form that asks for your name, phone number, email address, and the plan you want. A company representative will then call you to talk through the contract and set everything up for you. You will, of course, have to provide ID to finalize the contract. Of course, you can also choose to go into a store and start the process there.

Pre-paid SIM cards in Qatar

Pre-paid SIM cards in Qatar are readily available. They are a great choice if you want more flexibility or are not sure how long you will be in the country. Ooredoo has pre-paid SIM cards called Hala. These come with Flexi Packs for credit for calls or SMS, and 2GB of data. You will pay between QR60-QR200 each month for a Hala card.

Ooredoo in Qatar
Ooredoo in Qatar

Ooredoo also sells Visitor SIMS for QR35. These come with 25 local call minutes, 25 international call minutes, and 250MB of data. However, these cards are valid for 7 days. In addition, you can top up with data packs; for example, you can get 1GB of data for QR30 that is valid for 14 days. To get the Visitor SIM, simply fill out an online application form on the website and provide your name, passport number, and email. You will then be able to collect your SIM cards in Qatar at the airport when you arrive.

Vodafone provides more useful pre-paid SIM cards in Qatar. There are several options ranging between QR35-QR500, and each comes with a corresponding amount of credit. This credit can be used for calls, data, or SMS. Additionally, you can add on monthly internet plans that cost QR60-QR200. You can get your Vodafone sim card online. Simply choose a plan, pick a number, then pay for and confirm the transaction. You will then be able to choose to pick up the card from Villagio Mall, City Centre Mall, or Landmark Mall, or have it delivered straight to you. You can top up these cards through Vodafone apps.

Mobile phones in Qatar

As previously mentioned, mobile phones in Qatar are widely used. In fact, 100% of the population use them, and in 2018, there were 141.86 mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. As in many other countries, smartphones are a popular choice. In fact, smartphones in Qatar account for 75% of all mobiles. Additionally, these devices are so popular that the Qatar smartphone market was valued at US$1.85 billion in 2017.

Mobile phones

Smartphones in Qatar

The rest of the world may be dedicated to Apple, but iPhones only account for 16% of mobile phones in Qatar. Contrary to the worldwide trend, Samsung is the preferred phone producer in Qatar and boasts a dominant $40 market share. However, Chinese phone manufacturers have muscled in on the Qatari market, too, with Xiaomi (14%) and Huawei (13%) also taking a slice of the mobile phone pie.

Mobile phones in Qatar are only slightly more expensive than in other countries. Ooredoo sells new Samsung Galaxy Folds for QR7,499 and Apple’s iPhone 11 goes for between QR4,000-QR5,800, depending on its capacity.

Second-hand smartphones in Qatar can easily be found online. Plus, they are usually much cheaper than buying new phones. For example, you can find an iPhone XS Max 256GB with a warranty for QR3,150 or a Samsung Galaxy S10 for QR2,300. If you are looking for a second-hand phone, you can try places like the Qatar Living classifieds or Facebook Marketplace.

Qatar mobile numbers 

The numbers for mobile phones in Qatar are all made up of eight digits. However, your number will start with a particular double-digit code depending on which company you are with. Vodafone numbers begin with 77, while Ooredoo numbers start with 33, 44, 55, or 66. The international calling code for Qatar is 974; you will need this if you are calling a Qatari mobile from overseas.

Both Vodafone and Ooredoo allow number porting, so if you happen to change providers, you can keep your existing number. 

Repairing a mobile phone in Qatar

Like anywhere else in the world, Qatar has many mobile repair shops. However, you may want to choose an authorized store to ensure the quality of the repair. Apple, for example, has many authorized serviced providers to repair their iPhones in Qatar. Because they use genuine Apple parts in repairs and replacements, you can be sure your device will be as good as new. Otherwise, get recommendations for reliable repairers.

Mobile phone laws in Qatar

Qatar does not have many mobile phone laws. However, the one it does have is similar to those in other countries. It is illegal to use your mobile while driving. This applies whether you are taking a call, sending a text, or checking social media. If you are caught using your device while driving, you will have to pay a fine of QR500 and receive three demerit points.

Phone laws

If you don’t have a mobile phone in Qatar

It is unlikely that you will be without a mobile phone in Qatar. However, if you do, you will have a few options. While more and more uncommon, you will still find the occasional phone booth. Normally, you will spot them in high-traffic places such as the airport or shopping malls. You will need to purchase a pre-paid calling card from a bookshop or supermarket. These cost QR10, 30, or 50.