Oman’s telecom sector remained positive for the year 2012. Both major operators showed growth in revenues and earnings as compared to the results of 2011. The industry posted growth of 9.7% in active mobile subscribers and 6% in fixed-line subscriptions over the last year. Internet usage, including broadband subscriptions, rose to 21% during the year. Due to the liberalization of international telephony and the relaxation of some of the VoIP services resulting in the reduction of international calling rates, international traffic volumes have grown considerably. Outgoing international traffic rose by 62%, although there was a decline of 15% in international incoming traffic.
The TRA remained committed to supporting industry initiatives for expanding services to wider geographical areas and population, improving service quality, and promoting consumer interest. In the following paragraphs, we have summarized some of these initiatives.
1. Serving the Un-Served and Under-Served Areas
The Authority has utilized the opportunity of spectrum refarming to seek coverage in remote and rural areas by engaging with mobile network operators and securing their support to extend the services to the un-served areas. The Authority has embarked on an initiative, to provide telecommunications services to more than 250 villages in rural areas of the Sultanate in collaboration with Omantel and Nawras. The implementation of this national project has commenced (with site acquisition in progress) and is expected to be completed during 2013-14.
2. Migration of Spectrum
The Authority has been pursuing migration of important non-commercial use of spectrum to make additional spectrum available for commercial use and better consumer services. During 2012, significant progress has been made on this front. The Authority would like to acknowledge that this initiative has been achieved with the active support and cooperation of the Ministries of Transport & Communication and Finance. As the additional spectrum becomes available for commercial use, the Authority will be able to facilitate improvement in service quality and in the expansion of services.
3. Refarming of Spectrum
The Authority has been successful in implementing the refarming of spectrum in the 900 MHz and 800 MHz bands. This has given additional flexibility to the operators to provide better services to their subscribers. As a next step, spectrum prices are being reviewed with the aim of rationalizing them for better utilization of spectrum.
4. Removing the Mobility Restriction in the 2.3 GHz Band
The TRA allowed the mobility feature in the frequency spectrum of 2.3 GHz band to provide broadband mobile services in the Sultanate. This will help operators to improve the usage of spectrum through this mobility feature.
5. Price Benchmarking
During ,2012the Authority conducted a benchmarking exercise on telecom prices in order to assess how Omani prices compared with those of telecom services providers in other selected countries especially within the GCC region. This study was conducted using a basket price methodology to suit the usage pattern observed in the Sultanate. The study methodology was shared with the service providers before conducting the actual study, and the results were also shared after completing the study. Summaries of the findings are set out below, and are indicative only. It is important to mention that such comparisons need to be used with care, as these may not capture all the important underlying factors driving the prices.
6. Quality of Services
In order to ensure that subscribers to telecom services in Oman receive a high quality of service and value for money, the TRA attaches a lot of importance to monitoring the service quality of the licensees.
The Authority’s actions in continuing to measure and publish the parameters and liaise with the licensees provide incentives to them to improve their performance level. Currently, the Authority requires operators to compile their QoS KPIs and publish them on a quarterly basis. We plan to audit the systems and carry out independent QoS checks to make the process more authentic and unbiased. The Authority also conducted an audit of billing accuracy of all the licensees during 2012through an independent auditor and the results showed no significant discrepancies in subscribers’ bills. The overall result was below the international threshold of 0.1% .
7. Competition Framework
The Authority has recently issued regulations for ex-ante provisions to ensure fair competition in the telecom market, while the ex-post regulations and guidelines are under review with the Ministry of Legal Affairs. The first public consultation was conducted on the draft ex-ante and ex-post regulations and a market analysis was carried out based on the market definition and dominance guidelines. This analysis has been shared with all the stakeholders in order to obtain their comments. Once finalized, the TRA will issue a determination to designate dominance in each market and impose suitable remedies to mitigate the potential risk of harm by the dominant players. These frameworks expected to create clarity in the regulatory domain of the sector.
8. Licensing Framwork
The general policy framework approved by the Council of Ministers requires the TRA to review the licensing framework with a view to further encourage investment in the sector and promote competition. The TRA is undertaking a study that involves a comprehensive review of the current licensing framework to evolve a futuristic framework that would address the needs of convergence and emerging IP network based delivery channels. This is a major initiative that aims to remove the barriers of entry in the telecom market in Oman and will result in effective competition for all kinds of telecom services, providing consumers with a wider choice, acceptable price levels and excellent quality of service.
TRA has implemented the E-Government policy by introducing the online application of radio licenses via the successful implementation of the Advance Automated Spectrum Management System. This system went livein 2013and users will have easy and fast interaction with TRA.
10. VoIP Regulations
In order to support SMEs and individuals in having access to cheaper options for international calls, the TRA has issued VoIP Regulations. Some of the popular VoIP software has been unblocked to enable the public to access them for making VoIP voice and video calls.
11. Launch of .om & .عمان
With the launch of .om and .عمان top level domain names, the TRA took over the registry system function from Omantel and started registering the entities for Top Level Domains. The TRA also received IANA (global entity) approval for the delegation of .عمانtop level domain names and started to register domain names in Arabic (first domain name registered )هئية-تنظيم-الاتصالات.عمان which would greatly support the e-Government initiatives.