The long-delayed privatization of Oman’s Telecommunications Company, Omantel, is likely to be postponed for yet another year, due to the global economic slowdown and a lack of interest on the part of international telecoms operators, an Omantel source told Oman’s Times Business.
Omantel was expected to make available the purchase of a 40 percent stake in the firm to foreign strategic investors. The ownership of the remaining 60 percent of Omantel’s shares will be retained by the government, nine percent of which will be allocated to Omani retirement funds.
A second phase of privatization was initially planned for 2003-end, with the possibility under consideration of opening up the telecoms market to competition from private companies.
A new law, which came into effect in March 2002, governs the local telecoms sector. It sets out the regulatory framework and terms by which foreign investors will be granted licenses to operate in Oman. The Transport and Telecommunications Minister is expected to head the regulatory body, which will include at least three non-governmental board members.
Headquarters in Muscat, government-owned OmanTel is the country’s sole provider of telephony, mobile and Internet services. Full Internet service became available in early in 1997 and after a relatively slow start, usage increased significantly between 1999-2000.
Currently, there are over 230,000 fixed line subscribers, bringing the Sultanate’s fixed line penetration rate to 9.8 percent. The network currently covers 80 percent of the population, with 98 percent of urban households owning a telephone line. It is estimated that Oman’s 2.4 million strong population will need about 500,000 telephone lines by the year 2020. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )