Qtel secures second mobile licence in Oman

Qtel's Nawras Consortium has pledged to invest almost US$2 billion in its upcoming network in Oman.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  July 4, 2004

|~||~||~|Qatar Telecom’s (Qtel) regional expansion drive has got underway with the award of a licence to operate the second mobile network in Oman. The Nawras Telecom Consortium, which includes Qtel; the operator’s Danish partner, TDC, and local Omani partners, secured the licence after a competition involving 27 other bidders. “With Oman’s population of close to 2.5 million and with the current GSM usage much lower than other countries in the region — only 25% of the population — there is enormous scope for increasing the overall mobile penetration,” says Dr. Nasser Marafih, CEO of Qtel. Nawras Telecom has pledged to invest at least US$1.7 billion in the Omani operation in the next ten years. Of this, the group says it will commit US$195 million in the first two years and just over US$100 million for the licence itself. According to Qtel, it is planning to arrange national roaming on the existing network of incumbent operator, Omantel, to give it wider coverage at launch. It has also pledged to build 160 base stations, primarily in Muscat and Salalah, to give it 60% coverage within six months. Within a year, the operator plans to have increased coverage to 80%, and to have 95% of the population within reach by the end of 2006. “Nawras Telecom has committed to a fast network launch,” says Marafih. “We have also committed to a significant training programme intended to maximise Omanisation over the first five years of the company’s existence,” he adds. The consortium has pledged to create around 1600 new jobs in Oman through the move, either within the company itself or in supporting industries. Qtel says it will contribute two of its senior management team to the operation, as CEO and COO, while TDC executives will also be transferred. “TDC is bringing in a team of experts who will be able to contribute... their experience from building in eleven other markets. [These include] mountainous environments like Oman, such as Switzerland and Austria,” says Henning Dyremose, CEO of TDC. Qtel has also pledged to pursue other opportunities to expand in the region, including new licences and acquisitions. In the past, it has considered bids for Vivendi’s stake in Maroc Telecom and licences in Iraq and Iran. Qtel and TDC also signed a Memorandum of Understanding three months ago in Copenhagen to collaborate on international expansion, both in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and Europe. “The regional side is an important part of our strategy,” says Marafih. “We believe that we have the expertise and financial resources. We are looking at a number of other opportunities in the region. Those are still under discussion and evaluation. Some will be new operations and some will be existing operations that we are looking to acquire,” he adds. ||**||

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