Oman’s Ministry of Telecommunications has established a regulatory agency to oversee the long-awaited privatization of the state-run telecom firm, OmanTel. The new watchdog dog body will manage the first phase of the company’s partial sale to private investors in December, reported Reuters.
Oman’s efforts to privatize the telecom sector are motivated by its commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to liberalize the industry by 2003. According to OmanTel sources, the delay for privatization is the result of the global economic slowdown and lack of interest on the part of international telecom operators.
The company was expected to make available the purchase of a 40 percent stake to foreign investors last year. The ownership of the remaining 60 percent of OmanTel’s shares would be retained by the government, nine percent of which will be allocated to Omani retirement funds.
Headquartered 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 and 2000. The network currently covers 80 percent of the population, with 98 percent of urban households owning a telephone line. — (menareport.com)
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