Country cancels ongoing tender process and awards new mobile licence to local investment group

The government of Oman has cancelled a long-running tender process to license a third mobile operator in the country and has instead awarded the concession to a consortium of local investment funds.

Oman’s transport and communications ministry instructed the Telecom Regulatory Authority to cancel the tender process, the state news agency reported earlier this week.

"This decision comes in light of the efforts exerted to strengthen the telecommunications networks in the Sultanate and provide high quality services for citizens to cope with modern technologies and steady population growth," the Oman News Agency said.

The agency said the new licence will go to a local player owned by investment funds and backed by a global partner, "which has the necessary capabilities and potentials in this field." It did not name the global partner.

The government gave the go-ahead for the telecoms regulator to licence a third mobile operator as long ago as February 2016, keen to bring competition to a market dominated by incumbent Omantel and Ooredoo.

Earlier this year Saudi Telecom, Etisalat, Zain and Sudatel were all named as contenders for the licence and a winner was due to be announced on 4 September, according to The National.

However, as that deadline passed the newspaper revealed that the TRA had decided to delay the process to the end of November, in part because it claimed that Omantel’s decision to buy into Zain had complicated matters.

Omantel acquired close to 10% of Zain’s shares in August and made an offer for a further 12% a fortnight ago.