Vodafone Oman, the Sultanate’s third telecom operator, is set to commence operations in the very near future — a development that promises to further intensify competition in the retail and business segments of the telecom market, as well as accelerate the country’s digital transformation.
A top official affirmed that Oman’s newest telecom player is gearing up to go live shortly, after nearly a year’s delay, attributable primarily to the global economic slowdown and compounded by the pandemic.
“The launch is soon!” Stelios Savvides, Technology Director, said. “We are preparing for it; the teams are working hard, and with this signing ceremony today you can expect things very soon.”
The ceremony Savvides referenced pertained to an agreement signed by Vodafone Oman with leading international telecom technology giant Ericsson for the deployment, operation and maintenance of a new 4G and 5G core, as well as greenfield radio access network (RAN) that will be at the heart of the third operator’s new telecom infrastructure in the Sultanate. The agreement was signed at Kempinski Hotel on Wednesday in the presence of top executives representing the two sides.
Pressed by journalists for a timeline for the planned launch, Savvides said: “I can’t give you exact dates, but soon”, further adding, “Probably yes!” when queried if the event would happen before the end of this year.
The agreement with Ericsson, the Technology Director said, calls for the rollout of equipment and systems over a period of five years, as well as managed services for the operation of the network along with Vodafone Oman for the next five years. “So it’s an all-encompassing deal where both Vodafone and Ericsson will work together to deploy the latest capabilities and look to provide a great customer experience to all our customers in Oman.”
Asked how the new network would compare — speed and quality-wise — with those of incumbents Omantel and Ooredoo, Savvides stated: “We will look to give the best performance in the market. We are providing 4G, 5G services, voice over LTE (VOLTE), voice and 5G data from Day 1. The network will evolve. We look to provide great 5G indoors as well, but we definitely will look at the very best and be super-competitive with the other providers.”
Vodafone Oman is the product of a strategic partnership agreement reached between Oman Future Telecommunications Company, the third telecom licensee, and British multinational telecom giant Vodafone, in September 2019. Under the non-equity agreement, the two sides agreed to work together to roll out a new mobile network and develop a number of new services using the Vodafone brand in Oman.
Savvides declined to be drawn on any likelihood of a pricing competition with Omantel and Ooredoo upon the launch of Vodafone Oman. “I can’t comment on pricing, but we are looking to come into the market and deliver something fresh, new and exciting to customers. So let’s wait and see! Today, we are marking the agreement from the technology point of view, but Vodafone is looking to bring benefit to customers across all aspects in terms of what we can offer to the customers’’, he commented.
Through partnerships with Oman Tower Company and Oman Broadband, much of the network has already been set in place, according to the executive. However, the roll-out of telecom services is planned in “phased progression”, with coverage set to be national from the outset, he noted.
A Royal Decree issued earlier this year granted Oman Future Communications Company (Vodafone Oman) a Class-1 licence to provide basic mobile public telecommunications services in the Sultanate. Muscat-based Oman 70 Holding is a primary shareholder in Oman Future Telecommunications (OFT). Private investors, including Oman 70 Holding, account for around 45 per cent of OFT’s equity, while the balance 55 per cent is made up of Omani pension funds.See also Page 15