Plans to sell a strategic stake in Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel)are likely to be shelved for another year, government sources say. It is understood that the sale, which was expected to be the first stage of opening up the local telecoms sector to private competition, will be postponed due to a lack of interest from international telecoms operators as a result of continuing turmoil in the global market (MEED 10:5:02, Cover Story).
Following the passage in March of new legislation governing the liberalisation of domestic telecoms services in the sultanate the government had intended to sell a 40 per cent stake in Omantel to a strategic investor while opening up the market for cellular, internet and private leased-line services this year. Merrill Lynchis advising the government on its privatisation programme (MEED 5:4:02).
Omantel has just over 200,000 fixed-line subscribers from a total population of about 2.6 million and some 322,994 pre-paid and post-paid customers for its GSM services. The company is planning to boost its mobile business further with the introduction of advanced GPRS (general packet radio services) and 3G (third-generation) networks (Oman, MEED Special Report, 26:4:02, page 32).
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