Oman’s telecom sector - a fast-growing and competitive market

Oman’s telecom sector - a fast-growing and competitive market

In the past few years, the Sultanate of Oman has been considered as the most progressive telecom market in the Middle East for its liberalization and promotion of competition. Oman has a total of 16 telecom service providers operating under 3 categories. The competition between the telecom operators has engendered significant growth for different sectors in Oman. A new report published by the United Nations and entitled “ Covid-19 and the Arab Region” states that the Sultanate is amongst the Arab Countries that are most prepared to handle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Back to August 9, 2020, Oman’s Telecommunications Regulation Authority issued a new decision No. 59/2020 regarding the rules for market regulation and behavior aiming to ensure that all telecom companies operating in the country continue to remain competitive, according to thel Times of Oman.

In September 2019, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) signed a MoU with Vodafone Group to form a third mobile network operator in Oman. The introduction of Vodafone to the Oman Telecom sector will spur the deployment of the 5G network in the Sultanate. “The arrival of the third operator in Oman will have a profound impact on the current competitive dynamics”, said Omantel in the Board of Director’s report of its operations for the six months ended in June 2020, according to Zawaya by Refinitiv.

The two existing mobile network operators (MNOs) – Omantel and Ooredoo were both awarded a 15-year license in 2019. The regulator gave them the right to use a 100 MHz 5G spectrum. However, both companies have been facing challenges during the first half of 2020 as they reported a decline in profit amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the challenges, telecom operators have been working hard to secure high-speed internet. Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel) launched an initial 5G network in December 2019. “As per Omantel’s roadmap for 5G rollout that has been approved by TRA, we plan to set up 2226 5G sites or locations by 2024”, Baha Allawati, VP of Omantel’s enterprise business told The National. However, the deployment of the 5G network poses a serious challenge for the Sultanate amid US sanctions on the Chinese telecom giant Huawei. In fact, Omantel is using Huawei equipment for the smooth transition of 5G services, according to Business Technology. Allawati has commented on Huawei spying fears saying, “So far, there has not been any concrete evidence that Huawei has those particular motives”. Moreover, he added, “TRA has signed an agreement with Huawei to train 1000 individuals on 5G tech… this number will be growing exponentially”. On February 19, 2020, and during a workshop that aimed to highlight the development of 5G connectivity in the Sultanate, TRA signed a MoU with Huawei, to deliver a range of pioneering 5G services in the country. Ooredoo Oman’s CTIO, Ahmed Abdullah Al Abri, confirmed to CommsMEA “We use Huawei in the core and in the radio access network of our networks”.

In a press release published on July 15, 2020, Swedish telecom operator Ericsson announced that Omantel has selected the company to support the Sultanate’s ongoing 5G radio access network (RAN) deployment plans in a multi-year partnership. Fadi Pharaon, President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa said, “We are delighted to further strengthen our relationship with Omantel to bring the best possible commercial 5G experience to their customers”.  For Eng. Samy Ahmed Al Ghassany, Chief Operating Officer, Omantel “ The deployment of 5G will enable Oman to be at the forefront of digitalization, helping us transform both industry and infrastructure and turn the next generation of possibilities into reality”. In addition, Omani second operator Ooredoo plans to construct and install more 5G stations across the country. The company aims to reach more homes across the Sultanate in the next five years.

The telecom sector is crucial for the Omani authority’s plans for a digital nation. Back in 2017, the Information Technology Authority (ITA) started the process of developing a 2030 Digital Oman Strategy. The e.Oman 2030 strategy aims at building a strong foundation to benefit from the digitalization and technology changes driven by the 4th Industrial Revolution. The strategy comes as part of Oman’s vision for leadership in digital transformation and innovation to boost the economy and the prosperity of the society, according to Omanuna- the Official Oman eGovernment Services Portal.

Omani government ministries and institutions are planning to digitize the public services by 2022. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation across sectors including education and transportation.