Oman launches region's first MVNO
Muscat, April 27, 2009
Oman has announced the launch of Friendi Mobile, the first mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in the Middle East.
A second MVNO, Renna, is expected to be launched shortly, said a government official.
Both Friendi and Renna operate through agreements with fixed and mobile incumbent operator Omantel, which has suffered a significant loss in mobile-market share as a result of the rise of No.2 operator Nawras.
Informa Telecoms & Media believes that best prospects for the first MVNOs in the Middle East, particularly in the GCC, is to focus on the large expatriate communities.
There were 12.8 million non-nationals in the GCC states in 2005, accounting for 36 per cent of the total 36 million inhabitants of the GCC, according to the United Nations.
South Asian countries account for the largest numbers of expatriates in the GCC. India is the single largest contributor of expatriates in the GCC, and there are also sizeable expatriate communities from Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
“There is a clear opportunity for MVNOs in the Middle East to offer the sizeable expatriate communities here customised services with features such as call-centres that are available in their own language, and value-added services including content offerings that cater for their interests and backgrounds,” said Matthew Reed, senior analyst MEA at Informa Telecoms & Media.
“Significant numbers of people within these groups are also likely to find the offer of discounted calls – both local calls and international calls – attractive so that is another area that MVNOs should look at.”
The progress of MVNOs in Oman will be closely watched across the region, by operators, regulators and potential MVNOs, said an expert.
Jordan also has advanced legislation for allowing MVNOs, although none of Jordan’s three GSM operators have so far been unwilling to host MVNOs. Bahrain and Turkey are also discussing legislation to allow MVNOs to enter their markets.
Nevertheless, the MVNO market in the Middle East and Africa region is likely to remain modest in size for some time.
According to research by Informa Telecoms & Media, there will be 2.65 million MVNO and reseller2 subscriptions in the Middle East and Africa bby year end, rising to 3.77 million at the end of 2013, with South Africa likely to remain the largest single MVNO and reseller market in the region.-TradeArabia News Service