Jul 23 2007
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Oman: Telecom sector keeping pace with progress in Information Technology
The telecom sector of the Sultanate of Oman is in focus in view of the role it plays in the comprehensive development process. It has constituted a primary element in the implementation of development projects in all the sectors in order to be in line with the building strategy established by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
Oman Telecommunications Company ( Omantel ) has played the greatest role in placing the Sultanate on the rank of advanced countries in terms of the provision of the technological infrastructure.
Omantel has worked hard over the past 37 years to establish a telecom sector that lives up to the aspirations of the blessed Renaissance.
The objective is to implement the plans of His Majesty the Sultan to connect the Sultanate with the world through an expanded communications network covering all Omani villages.
Oman Telecommunications Company has been working over three decades to supply the infrastructure of the telecom sector in the Sultanate with telephone services and international networks. Therefore, Omantel has played an important role in disseminating digital culture in the Omani society.
Omanis can now easily handle electronics and interact with the world through telephone lines and the i-nternet. Omantel has worked hard to realise the foresighted vision of His Majesty the Sultan and built an up-to-date communications network. Omani citizens now enjoy telephone services at par with highly advanced industrial countries.
Omantel continues to achieve great successes in implementation of its plans to enhance the position of the Sultanate's telecommunications in the world's growing telecom system. This will serve the objectives of the country's comprehensive development at a time in which Oman Mobile Communications Company ( Oman Mobile ) seeks to establish its commercial identity and expand its services portfolio, increase its products and launch more value added services to better serve the people and the society.
Both national companies ( Omantel and Oman Mobile ) now introduce an integrated and innovative range of telecom services at competitive rates and in a way that suits all segments of the society. It is worth noting that mobile and fixed line services now cover around 95 per cent of the Sultanate.
Meanwhile, Omantel pays special attention to the youth segment and accords them great care in all practical and scientific fields. It provides them with the most up-to-date technology and the best of its services and facilities. It satisfies their requirements and creates job opportunities for them, as it believes in the importance of this segment in the growth of countries in view of the fact that they play an important role in the comprehensive development.
The company's efforts in this respect come as a sincere implementation of His Majesty's directives regarding the importance of looking after young men as they represent the nucleus of the future of the country.
Oman Telecommunications Company has done yeomen service to the country in addition to its huge expansions in the telecom sector. Omantel has introduced the 'Easy Learning' service in cooperation with the Ministry of Manpower and Etisalat Academy of the United Arab Emirates. This project, which is considered to be the most important in the Middle East, will expand electronic learning and rely on the potentials of information technology. This project coincides with the implementation the e-government project on a large scale in most governmental and non-governmental institutions in the Sultanate.
The Easy Learning service allows for the provision of educational and training programmes in all human resources, and applied sciences over the internet through pre-paid smart cards.
Support for e-government and e-commerce
As part of their continued cooperation, Oman Telecommunications Company and the Information Technology Authority have signed an agreement to establish a unified e-government network. Accordingly, all government units and departments shall be linked with one network that will allow for the exchange of data and information electronically through a broad spectrum with hi-speed and efficiency.
Omantel provides the necessary infrastructure for government sites in this vital project through advanced technologies and terminal links.
Oman Telecommunications Company also contributes to supporting the development of e-government through the provision of e-purchases and trade through the internet solutions.
The implementation of e-government project and the Oman digital society can only be achieved through the concerted efforts of all institutions, enterprises and companies working in telecommunications, information technology and electronics sectors as well as other companies.
Expansion of internet network
Continuing its plans to expand the base of internet users in the Sultanate, and in order to increase the number of service subscribers, Omantel has signed RO7 million agreement with M/s Huwaei for the provision of multipurpose broadband for ADSL Internet service covering all regions of the Sultanate. This agreement, signed last March, will facilitate the rollout of over 100-180,000 new ADSL lines in all parts of the Sultanate. It is also part of Omantel 's efforts in support of the e-government and Oman digital society projects.
The agreement allows for the provision of multipurpose, hi-speed and efficient telecommunications services. It will also help spread ADSL services to cover all parts of the Sultanate and increase the number of internet users in both public and private sector institutions as well as individuals, thus keeping pace with the economic and tourist progress the Sultanate is currently witnessing. New tourist cities and giant industrial projects make it incumbent upon the society to turn from paperwork into digital and electronic society.
Omantel also seeks to disseminate digital culture amongst youth. Therefore, it has introduced wireless internet service known as WiFi in more than 20 locations in commercial complexes and cafes, where frequenters can surf the internet through prepaid cards. They can use their laptops and mobile phones.
Furthermore, customers can use their usernames and passwords while navigating the internet through Ibhar service. In this case, subscribers do not have to use prepared cards, as the charge will be included in their monthly bills.
Omantel has placed hot points in several places of interest including Al Harthy Commercial Complex, Madinat Sultan Qaboos Commercial Centre, the Capital Commercial Centre, Al Araimi Commercial Centre, Al Waha Centre in Shati Al Qurum, Sabco Commercial Centre, Zakher Mall, Al Bustan Palace Hotel, Chedi Muscat Hotel, Jawharat Al Shati Complex, Oman International Exhibitions Centre, the Knowledge Oasis Muscat and several other points in these locations.
Fixed line services
As far as fixed line service is concerned, Oman Telecom-munications Company has introduced last year the wireless fixed line system known as the Wireless Local Loop (WLL) to cover mountainous and rural areas where it was difficult to extend fixed telephone cables because of the rough topography of these cities and villages. Residents in these cities and villages now enjoy fixed line services, the internet and other related services.
WLL services now cover more than 160 rural villages in various governorates and regions in the Sultanate. Omantel has provided around 1,850 phone lines to contribute to some extent to the spread of digital culture in these rural villages and help residents to acquire technical and technological knowledge.
It is the belief of Omantel that all citizens of the Sultanate should enjoy its services on an equal footing. It is a national and social duty in the first place not just a way to make financial gains.
Omantel paid great attention to the principle of security and safety in the exchange of data and information in all the projects it implements. It has applied the international security standards and regulations. Therefore, it has created a special body for security, safety and project control even before the start of the implementation stage in order to guarantee the safety of human resources on the one hand and the security and safety of the project itself on the other.
In this respect, Omantel has signed Operation Support System (OSS) agreement with both Capgemini Telecom & Media Company and the Omani Computer Services Group. The objective of this agreement is to improve services, increase efficiency, and avoid sudden breakdowns.
Successful Omanisation policy
Oman Telecommunications Company has achieved 93 per cent Omanisation by the end of June this year. This is one of the highest percentages among telecom companies not only in the Sultanate but also among other AGCC states. This great success is a direct result of the efforts of the company, which are inspired by royal directives of His Majesty the Sultan. Therefore, Omantel now occupies a privileged position among Gulf countries. It has recently been honoured by the AGCC Council of the Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs in its meeting held in Abu Dhabi for being distinguished among private sector institutions in the field of job localisation and Omanisation in the AGCC region.
This high Omanisation percentage is a reflection of the keenness of the management of Omantel to raise Omanisation rates in the telecom sector.
Oman Telecommunications Company exerts relentless efforts to create suitable strategic investments and embark on big projects in order to diversify its income mix. To achieve this end, it has signed several agreements amounting to millions of Omani rials.
Omantel has entered into big investment in the e-government project. It has established the infrastructure for many websites and provided the necessary equipment for the operation of project. Omantel also owns 40 per cent of the capital of Tejari Oman Company which is specialised in dealing and marketing through the internet. Omantel has concluded a partnership agreement with Tejari Oman to enable government institutions and private sector enterprises to order goods and services through the internet.
Omantel will also prepare the telecommunications infrastructure for Sohar port. Omantel is working hard to conclude partnership agreements with the concerned authorities to establish the port management system.
Omantel also owns a 45 per cent of the capital of information line project which is responsible for the provision and management of all services of communications centres.
Meanwhile, Omantel is currently studying the purchase of a majority stake in the Pakistani World Call telecom company. Omantel has started negotiations with the company's shareholders in order to purchase a majority stake in the company.
Omantel has also implemented the Flag (Falcon) project, which will make the Sultanate an internet transit point between the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
The project will link these regions with submarine fibre optics cables in order to facilitate telecommunication traffic.
The Sultanate has been selected as host of two main points for the project in Seeb and Khasab.
Omantel has invested around $39 million as these cables allow for the usage of large capacities with high speed for international data services and for longer distances including internet services as well as international phone calls.
The company has also invested in several international submarine cables including CMW-3. This cable, which was commissioned in 1999, links more than 30 countries and extends from Europe to Australia.
Submarine cables constitute one of the most important medium of international connections at present.
They link world countries in all continents as they extend under the sea. Submarine cables have large capacities and provide all sorts of phone services as well as the internet.
Satellite connections have become old fashioned with the introduction of higher quality and cheaper submarine cables.
In view of the growing demand and Omantel 's requirements for high capacities with the introduction of modern services, and in preparation for the imminent competition on the internet, there is pressing need for the company to fulfil these extra requirement through purchasing or renting high capacities.
Omantel has made the necessary plans for such eventuality and expanded its local network.
Omantel is currently conducting feasibility studies for several international projects regarding submarine cables. They include SMW-V project, which is the fifth generation of SMW.
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