Oman­tel gets mo­bile li­cence ex­ten­sion for 15 years

The National - News - - BUSINESS - ALKESH SHARMA

Oman’s Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity re­newed the coun­try’s largest op­er­a­tor Oman­tel’s mo­bile tele­com li­cence for a pe­riod of 15 years – com­menc­ing from Fe­bru­ary.

A one-time li­cence re­newal fee of 75 mil­lion Omani ri­als (Dh715m) will be charged by the TRA and the amount will be paid in two equal in­stal­ments by the com­pany in 2019 and 2020, said Oman­tel yes­ter­day.

“The re­newal in­cludes the spec­trum that are cur­rently al­lo­cated to Oman­tel un­der the ex­ist­ing first-class mo­bile tele­com li­cence and will not in­clude the 5G spec­trum,” the com­pany said.

How­ever, in­dus­try ex­perts said the pay­ment of fees, in the set time-frame, could put pres­sure on Oman­tel fi­nan­cially.

“Al­though the li­cence ex­ten­sion fees on Oman­tel was ex­pected for quite some­time, this can pres­surise the tele­com op­er­a­tor’s div­i­dend pay­ing ca­pac­ity for the next two years, given that the charges need to be paid in two equal in­stal­ments,” said Nishit Lakho­tia, head of re­search at Bahraini in­vest­ment bank Sico.

Oman­tel’s rev­enues dur­ing the first nine months of 2018 in­creased to 1.5 bil­lion ri­als, com­pared with 406.7m ri­als dur­ing the same pe­riod in 2017. The com­pany’s 2018 rev­enues also in­cluded those from Kuwait’s Zain Group, in which it owns a con­trol­ling share of 21.9 per cent.

An­tic­i­pat­ing lo­cal mar­ket sat­u­ra­tion, dip­ping sub­scriber num­bers and im­mi­nent en­try of the third mo­bile op­er­a­tor in Oman, Oman­tel had bought a stake in Kuwait’s tele­com op­er­a­tor Zain for more than $2.1bn in 2017.

It is Zain’s sec­ond-largest share­holder after the coun­try’s sov­er­eign wealth fund, the Kuwait In­vest­ment Au­thor­ity.

Oman­tel’s cus­tomer base, ex­clu­sive of re­sale com­pa­nies af­fil­i­ated to the com­pany, de­clined by nearly 3.3 per cent to 3.4 mil­lion sub­scribers by the end of Septem­ber 2018, com­pared to 3.5 mil­lion sub­scribers in Septem­ber 2017.

How­ever, in a bid to cre­ate a com­pet­i­tive at­mos­phere and to of­fer su­pe­rior ser­vices at com­pet­i­tive prices, the TRA is ex­pected to an­nounce the third mo­bile op­er­a­tor in Oman in the com­ing days.

Yousef Balushi, deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive for spec­trum man­age­ment af­fairs at TRA, said the third op­er­a­tor in Oman will be an­nounced early this year.

He said all do­mains and fre­quen­cies for the third op­er­a­tor will be granted the same way as granted to Oman­tel and Oore­doo. Launched as Oman’s sec­ond mo­bile op­er­a­tor in 2004, Oore­doo broke the mo­nop­oly of Oman­tel, which is still ma­jor­ity owned by the gov­ern­ment.

Oman­tel is also pur­su­ing its cloud com­put­ing and data cen­tre am­bi­tions in the re­gion. Last year, it an­nounced a joint ven­ture with the US tech com­pany Equinix to de­velop a data cen­tre in Mus­cat, where car­ri­ers, con­tent and cloud providers can house their IT in­fra­struc­ture. Both com­pa­nies are equal share­hold­ers and the first of three phases is ex­pected to start op­er­a­tions by the sec­ond quar­ter of 2019.

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