Oman invites new telecom bids
Oman said on Tuesday it was inviting firms to submit proposals for a second fixed-line telecom licence and a third mobile phone licence as the Gulf Arab state liberalises its telecommunications sector.
Firms have until April 1 to outline their interest in the licences, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said in a statement. The licences would further encroach on Oman Telecommunications (Omantel) business in the country of 2.5 million people.
"The TRA invites telecom companies to submit proposals to set up mobile and fixed-line telephone services in Oman that will lead to a licence as operators," the regulator said in a statement.
The fixed-line licence will end the monopoly of Omantel, which last month bought a controlling stake in Pakistan's Worldcall Telecom as it expands abroad to face growing competition at home.
Omantel lost its mobile phone monopoly when Nawras, 70 per cent owned by Qatar Telecommunications started operations in March 2005. Nawras has since secured 40 percent market share, its chief executive said in November.
States across the world's biggest oil-exporting region are opening up their telecom sectors as economic growth expands.
Oman's economy grew 7.2 per cent in real terms in 2006, its second-fastest pace this decade, and probably expanded 7-8 per cent last year, Oman's central bank governor said last month.
Neighbouring Qatar plans to sell its second fixed-line licence this year after awarding a group led by Vodafone Group Plc its second mobile phone licence in December.
Saudi Arabia's third mobile phone operator, an affiliate of Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co (ZAIN), is set to start operations this year.
In Oman, the government is considering the sale of up to 30 per cent of Omantel to a long-term investor of September, secretary-general of the Ministry of Finance told Reuters last month. The government now holds 70 per cent of Omantel. (Reuters)
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