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Oman invites bids for second fixed-line operator.

Byline: Muscat

(Image: omanbid.gif )

Oman's telecoms regulator invited bids on Monday for long-term contracts to build and operate the country's second fixed-line phone network, which would break the monopoly of state-controlled Omantel.

Oman, which already has two mobile phone operators and is also selling a stake in Oman Telecommunications (Omantel), is liberalising the telecoms sector as part of efforts to encourage foreign investment as its oil production dries up.

An official at the economy ministry who asked not to be named said Oman was looking for a company that could invest at least $300 million in the first five years of the contract.

The country of 2.5 million people is offering a package including a 25-year contract to build and operate a second fixed-line service and a similar 15-year contract for broadband internet services. Both contracts are renewable.

'The provider which will invest most money in the backbone will have the competitive edge over the rest,' Naashiah Al-Kharusi, a regulatory official, told a news conference.

'The successful bidder will have to pay 7 percent of gross revenues to the government as royalty... (and) pay an upfront fee of 500,000 rials ($1.30 million) on selection.'

The Telecoms Regulatory Authority set August 25 as the deadline for bids, with the licence expected to be awarded around the end of October.

Kharusi did not say which companies were expected to bid or what level of investment it was seeking.

Omantel lost its mobile phone monopoly when Nawras, which is 70 percent owned by Qatar Telecommunications Company started operations in March 2005.

Oman, which owns 70 per cent of Omantel, invited investor interest in July for the sale of a 25 per cent stake in the operator, which it hopes will further boost competitiveness.

States across the world's biggest oil-exporting region are opening up their telecom sectors as their economies boom and subscriptions grow.- Reuters

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Publication:TradeArabia (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Aug 11, 2008
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