The new operator will be required to begin services within six months of a final award and, after five years of operation, coverage must equal or exceed that of the incumbent, Oman Telecommunications Company. The selected bidder is guaranteed a three-year period of exclusivity, after which Muscat can opt to offer a third licence. Current mobile penetration is only 27 per cent.

The terms of the tender documents stated that the lead bidders should have experience in at least two competitive markets – a stipulation fulfilled by TDC. The venture is Q-Tel’s first overseas. ‘We are extremely happy to have won this contract in the face of competition from the region’s and the world’s major players,’ says Ross Cormack, Q-Tel’s executive director of wireless services. ‘It shows what a long way the company has come.’ Q-Tel and TDC announced in March that they were forming an alliance to co-operate across various fields, harnessing Q-Tel’s regional and TDC’s international experience (MEED 12:3:04).

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority is overseeing the liberalisation process, and submitted its recommendations on the GSM award to the Tender Board in May. All telecoms services are due to be opened up to competition by the end of 2005.