The Universal Service Obligation (USO) policy and implementation strategy was approved by the Council of Ministers in June 2009. The policy reflects the objectives of the TRA, the ITA, the Ministry of Transport and Communications and other Government stakeholders in implementing the ‘Digital Oman’ strategy which will require wide spread of internet access across the country.

The USO Implementation Policy document serves as a guideline for how the obligations set out in the Article (38) of the Telecoms Act are met and to ensure the availability and provision of telecoms services in Oman.

Further, the USO policy sets out how the Authority should implement the Universal Service projects in Oman to provide telecoms services in rural areas.

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The USO and rural areas

The TRA aims to expand telecommunications access networks to cover a wider proportion of the population and geographical areas of Sultanate of Oman through the liberalisation process and market reforms.

However, due to economic reasons, the telecom service providers are not expected to venture into economically unattractive areas to develop telecom networks and provide telecommunication services. Thus, many rural and remote areas in the Sultanate may continue to lack telecommunications access for some time until some support and initiative is provided by the Government.

National Broadband Policy

Due to the latest technological and regulatory developments and commissioning of a study by the Government to develop the National Broadband Strategy for Oman, it was agreed to incorporate the USO Policy objectives under the National Broadband Strategy, in order to have a comprehensive Government strategy for the telecoms sector and to efficiently utilise resources.

The key objectives of the broadband strategy are to enable Omani businesses to compete in the global market, raise GDP, and generate employment.

With the focus on making broadband services available to everyone in the Sultanate, the Government has made it clear that ICT is a key priority in the  improvement of the standing of Omani businesses in the international arena. The national broadband policy currently under development aims to encourage and promote investments in passive infrastructure – such as ducts, pipes and fibre optics – to optimise investment in the sector and reduce the cost of telecoms services offered by the service providers.

TRA works closely with the Ministry of Transport and Communications on the National Broadband Strategy initiative by providing information, participating in stakeholder meetings and workshops, providing analysis and review of documents to develop a future-proof strategy to position Oman on the ever-growing broadband world map.

Once implemented, the National Broadband Strategy will contribute to the Universal Service Obligation (USO) initiative, partially fulfilling its objective of reaching out to rural Oman by spreading broadband access and usage.

The National Broadband Strategy is in its final stage of development and it is expected that the Ministry of Transport and Communications will conduct a public consultation followed by submission to the Council of Ministers for approval.