Oman's Nawras to turn profit next quarter

CEO of Qtel affiliate says mobile telco taken 40% of market in 30 months of operations.

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By  Reuters Published  September 3, 2007

Nawras, the Oman unit of Qatar Telecommunications (Qtel), expects to make its first profit next quarter after taking 40% of the mobile phone market in 30 months of operations.

Oman's second mobile phone operator, 70% owned by state-controlled Qtel, has 900,000 users, about 250,000 more than it initially expected to have by this stage, Ross Cormack, the company's chief executive told Reuters.

Around 93% of Nawras' users are so-called pre-paid customers who make calls after buying airtime, Cormack said. Post-paid customers each tend to generate about three times as much revenue, he said.

"We have taken more on customers than we expected by this time and would have made the profit earlier were it not for the fees we pay for routing international calls," Cormack said in Dubai on Sunday.

State-run rival Oman Telecommunications (Omantel) charges Nawras for using its network to route international calls. Nawras absorbs as much as 10% of that cost, passing the rest on to customers, Cormack said.

"We don't cover our costs but it's a cost we're prepared to take on for our customers," Cormack said.

Nawras is obliged on rely on Omantel, which is the only telecom operator with a licence and network to offer international telephone calls.

The Qtel unit had expected the Omani government to have sold a second fixed-line licence by now, allowing it to choose which company to use for routing international calls and reducing costs, Cormack said.

For the last year, Nawras has urged the Omani telecom regulator to allow it to create its own network for making international calls, Cormack said.

"There is no process in place," he said of the government's response.

Nawras may roll out third-generation mobile phone services offering Internet and broadband access, Cormack said, declining to give a timeframe.

The company has set up trial 3G networks in five Omani cities, including Muscat, offering companies and other users the services free of charge.

"This is something that our customers have been asking for," Cormack said.

Cormack declined to give details about Nawras's financial performance.

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