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Oman shortlists firms for new telecom licence

Seven firms bidding for universal service licence which aims to boost connectivity in the remote and rural parts of Oman

Oman shortlists firms for new telecom licence
Remote parts of Oman will be connected to the internet following the country's latest regulatory initiative.

Seven firms have been shortlisted by Oman's telecoms regulator to provide services to remote parts of the Sultanate.

The winner will be granted the first ten-year ‘Universal Service' licence in the Sultanate of Oman, allowing it to offer fixed and mobile services and broadband internet, with financial subsidies paid by the state.

Oman's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said the seven have been selected from an initial group of ten "renowned national and international operators" with "sound financial positions and extensive experience of operating telecoms networks and providing telecoms services".

According to Indian newspaper DNA India, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) placed an initial bid for the licence.

Hong Kong-based telco PCCW, which was initially granted Oman's second fixed licence in October 2008 before the decision was reversed and the licence awarded to the country's second mobile operator, Nawras, is also thought to be one of the seven bidders.

A spokesman for PCCW said the firm would not comment on market speculation.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, by Q3 of 2009 there were 465,000 internet users in Oman from a population of 3.4 million.

TRA member Mohsin bin Alawi Al Hafeedh said: "The data point out that there are about 2000 sparsely populated pockets in the different parts of the Sultanate which did not receive the basic telecommunications services at all or have poor coverage, mainly because they live in mountainous areas which make connecting them to such services commercially unfeasible.

"These gatherings have been divided into a group of projects for the universal service schemes. The first group includes 62 villages at the Southern Al Batinah region, as a pilot project, at which the universal service scheme will be implemented."

The TRA said it is now assessing the seven bidders technical and financial proposals, and that it hopes to issue the licence by the end of first quarter 2010.

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