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Broadband Internet broadens Omantel prospects

Messaging applications affect Short Messaging Service

Gulf News

Muscat: Oman Telecommunications Company’s (Omantel) Short Messaging Service (SMS) dropped by 37 per cent but increased use of mobile internet data off set the possible revenue loss, according to a senior official of company first telephone and Internet service provider in the country.

“The increased use of WhatsApp affected our SMS volume but the use of cross-platform mobile messaging application through mobile internet balanced off the revenues,” Samy Al Gassani, Chief Operating Officer of Omantel, said in reply to a question during a media interaction at the company headquarters.

In reply to another question on use of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), he agreed that the future was VoIP applications but they were bound by the dictate of the country’s Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA).

“Last year they asked us to open five VoIP applications and we did,” he said and added that the company was in favour of increased use of VoIP services. “We do not want it but if TRA ask we will comply.”

About the rise in demand Skype services, he hoped that like in the neighbouring UAE, Oman’s TRA would also allow use of Skype in the Sultanate soon. “When we are asked to permit our subscribers to use such services we will open it up for them.”

Regarding some of the Apple applications, he said that the American company would look at the market volume and introduce it. “We had asked them but they would only do when they see the market volume,” he revealed, adding that there were about 50,000 IPhone and IPad devices in use in Oman.

The TRA has allowed operators to offer Viber, GoogleTalk, PalTalk, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger as VoIP services in the country, revealed Al Gassani.

With 88 per cent penetration in the country, Omantel’s ADSL fixed line broadband internet customer base is increasing by 8,000 new customers a month this year against 2,000 last year.

“The broadband users have almost doubled since 2011,” said the COO of the majority state-owned company, adding that the ADSL subscribers had increased to current 70,000 from 43,000 in 2011.

Omantel is one of the first operators in the region to introduce LTE technology. End of 2012, Omantel also introduced the LTE FDD technology using 1.8GHz spectrum which had been made available for 4G services. The adoption of FDD enabled us to introduce more devices including the 4G enabled smartphones and modems from Samsung, Nokia and Huawei.

“When we introduced 4G in mid-2012, it was a standalone technology. Now, the network technology and devices have matured and we can uniquely offer our customers a seamless 3.5G and 4G services,” pointed out Al Gassani.

“Currently, more than 30 per cent of our traffic is served locally,” he revealed.