Achievements in the telecommunication sector and future plans
There is no doubt that telecommunications are
one of the most important elements of economic, social and
cultural development in the world today and are the driving
force for restructuring and reshaping business and service needs
in the global economy. Technical development in the field of
telecommunications is helping to change all aspects of life and
advance human concepts in every part of the world. The
telecommunication industry has witnessed continuous growth which,
alongside the rapid development in policy and technology, has
resulted in increased competition in a world dominated by
expanding network coverage.
In the light of the comprehensive future vision and pursuant
to the urgent efforts aimed at enabling the telecommunication
sector to keep pace with contemporary trends of
telecommunication sector liberalization, the Government of the
Sultanate has been eager to develop the sector and participate
in the formulation of a liberalization policy designed to make
telecommunication services available in all parts of the country
within reasonable limits and at reasonable prices.
Liberalization of the telecommunication sector
With the move toward adoption of a policy of liberalization,
the monopoly position has been broken and there has been a shift
toward the creation of a competitive market structure. In the
interests of keeping pace with global trends, the Sultanate
resolved to open up the telecommunication sector to competition
in order to achieve the goals of the liberalization policy and
fulfil its obligations toward the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In this regard, the Telecommunications Regulatory Act was
promulgated by Royal Decree 30/2002, creating the
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and opening the door to
competition in the fixed and mobile telecommunication services
Telecommunication sector performance in the Sultanate
The continuous and rapid tangible developments in technical
areas and in the economies associated with the telecommunication
sector prompted the government to deploy the utmost efforts to
ensure that the policies and regulatory processes adopted to
keep pace with these developments were ready.
March 2005 witnessed a tangible development in the history of
telecommunications in the Sultanate of Oman through the
introduction of competition in the mobile telecommunication
market with the entry of the Omani Qatari Telecommunications
Company (Nawras). In recent years, the market has enjoyed an
atmosphere in which the spirit of healthy competition between
mobile telecommunication service providers has prevailed,
resulting in the lowering of prices. Compared with the
inherently slow growth of fixed lines, extraordinary rates of
growth have been achieved in the mobile telecommunication sector,
thus narrowing the digital divide.
When the new operator (Nawras) entered the market in March
2005, there were 872 650 subscribers. From then on, the number
subscribers to mobile services began to rise, reaching 3 355 145
in March 2009, an increase of 284.5 per cent over March 2005.
On average, for every 100 persons, in March 2009 122 had
access to mobile services in the Sultanate, compared with 37 for
every 100 in March 2005.
In 2008, third-generation networks were launched by the
mobile telephone operators in the Sultanate.
The year 2009 has witnessed a positive increase in the number
of fixed-line subscribers, the number of such subscribers rising
to 276 748 in March 2009 as against 248 546 in March 2005, a
relative increase of 11.35 per cent.
The number of users of the prepaid fixed-line service, at 49
856 at end-March 2009, has increased noticeably, with the result
that the share of this service in relation the aggregate total
number of fixed-line subscribers represents 18% per cent.
Recently, another licence was issued for fixed-line and
wireless broadband services infrastructure.
At end-March 2009, the number of Internet subscribers had
reached 58 395, in comparison with 46 624 in March 2005, thereby
recording a growth of 25.25 per cent, while the number of
broadband subscribers rose to 35 414 and leased-line subscribers
Alongside the number of Internet subscribers and the number
of Al-Ufuq (Horizon) cards which allow Internet service access,
the growing number of Internet cafés in the Sultanate in 2008
also reflected the rise in Internet use. Comparing 2008 with
2004 and 2005, the number of Internet cafés experienced growth
of 47.6 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively.
Total international Internet capacity rose during 2008 to 2
490 Mb/s from 1 250 Mb/s in 2007, an increase of 99.2 per cent.
In 2006, it became possible for users to retain their mobile
numbers, in the hope that this would encourage competition and
prompt operators to take greater care of their subscribers.
In 2006, the National Frequency Allocation Plan was
formulated to ensure efficient frequency spectrum management and
use. This new plan will provide support for a large number of
telecommunication services, such as aviation, navigation,
defence, public security and mobile telecommunications.
The Sultanate has embarked upon the opening up of the
telecommunication market, in accordance with the provisions of
the Telecommunications Regulatory Act and to ensure fulfilment
of its obligations vis-à-vis WTO and the recently concluded
United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement. This is within the
framework of commitment to the policy of telecommunication
sector liberalization, which involves the introduction of
competition in telecommunication service provision. The
Sultanate has recently opened up the market for value-added
services, Internet service provision and audio text service.
We trust that this represents a further prominent milestone
on the path of telecommunication development in the Sultanate,
giving Omani citizens and residents the choice of appropriate
service quality and reasonable prices from Internet service
providers and audio text service providers.
Future challenges for the Sultanate include striving to
provide a widening range of telecommunication services,
broadband service and other services which offer innovative
applications to users, and seeking new sources of revenue for
operators to enable them to make radical changes in the
telecommunication environment over the next few years. The
government recognizes these challenges and has mobilized the
necessary resources for success.