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Internet, WiFi, GPRS, EDGE in Oman - Muscat, Sur and Salalah
Friday, 17 October 2008
As in the UAE – getting connected to the Internet in Oman is not so difficult. By far the easiest way is connect through a GPRS/EDGE mobile phone & laptop by using local mobile prepay card. But easy is not cheap, however coverage and reliability of the service is pretty much ok throughout Oman. Here you find a few details about connecting to the Internet in Oman from April and October 2008.

Internet in Oman

Compared to other Asian and Middle-East countries Internet Café’s are not so common in Oman. The bigger cities have them but outside such a place is pretty much a rare find. On the contrary being connected to the Internet is quite popular in Oman – through DSL connections or (home based) mobile solutions using post-paid GPRS / EDGE subscriptions combined with a USB wireless modem equipped with a SIM card.  For a non-resident there are not much other options than either finding an Internet Café or being connected through a GPRS/EDGE connection using a prepay mobile phone card.

In march / april 2008 Oman has 2 internet providers who can connect you to the internet through DSL and/or a Mobile phone connection. Oman Mobile (from Oman Telecom) dominates the market with the privately owned Nawras company as a 2nd. After a little bit of asking around, several Omani’s found the Nawras a tad batter. They are a bit cheaper and have a better helpdesk. Also national network coverage seemed the same.


Mobile Internet in Oman

Anyhow, as tourist we decided to try both services and bought the Hayyak prepay card from Oman Mobile for 10 OMR (5 OMR balance) and the Mousbak prepay card from Nawras for 2 OMR (2 OMR balance). Both cards worked the same day, however Oman Mobile took 3-4 hours to produce a working mobile number.

First thing was to get the GPRS/EDGE settings for internet for a Nokia 3110 Classic on both networks. For Oman Mobile it was a rather lengthy process. After many calls to the (rather heavy Indian speaking) helpdesk and several futile attempts to get the setting through SMS, the helpdesk finally shipped the necessary settings manually by SMS. Next was the APN name for connecting a laptop and luckily it was mentioned on the Oman Mobile website. (Nov 2008 APN=taif, username=taif, password=taif)

For Nawras the process was pretty simple, the GPRS/EDGE settings where sent by SMS without asking for it. Also the APN name was mentioned on the website. In October 2008, Nawras mentions 3 different APN's, depending on the service needed. For laptop based GPRS/EDGE internet access it's: isp.nawras.com.om. Don't use mms.nawras.com.om or wap.nawras.com.om - it connects but traffic stalls. The username and password in the Windows dial-up interface is test - for bot - not using either will cause an authentication error.

Mobile Internet rates in Oman

Data rates for both services are practically the same and both supply no other package to reduce the costs per Mb. Residents in Oman have the option to purchase a flat-fee internet service for € 29 / month, as a tourists this is unfortunately out of reach. Basically the price is about € 0,90 / Mb. Expensive compared to India, Pakistan or Nepal – so with an EDGE connection it’s not very hard to click away € 18,- which is the value of an OMR 10 recharge card.

Oman Mobile is quite fuzzy about the GPRS/EDGE based internet on their website. They mention a wireless internet service for a flat fee – however it’s not clear whether it’s for prepaid and/or postpaid connections. The Oman Mobile helpdesk didn’t know for sure either. After several helpdesk calls the score was 3 for postpaid only and 2 for both prepaid and postpaid. Anyhow after getting connected to sales it was clear – the flat fee internet rate for 29 OMR is for postpaid only. The counter won’t stop ticking after spending 29 OMR on internet use in a month.

In October 2008 Nawras has a 48 hr unlimited Internet connection service which allows unlimited access during 2 days for 3 OMR. Activation is simple by following the instructions while dailing *141#. Mind the APN for Nawras (see above). You need some experience with GPRS/EDGE connections to make it work with your laptop. For Internet access through your mobile phone it works directly. With this deal Nawras takes the lead in providing affordable internet for travellers in Oman. Oman Mobile has no service like this and will charge for every Kb used.

We found EDGE connections in many locations in and  around Muscat. So the mobile network is pretty new or kept up to date more than we experienced in other countries. This means the mobile internet connection is fast enough for web browsing and sending/receiving bigger e-mails. In a few cases the network provided GPRS service only – and still it wasn’t slow either.

Coverage throughout Oman was ok. Driving into Wadi’s the signal was lost pretty quickly – unless a village was there with the inevitable red/white painted antenna for mobile communications.

Getting connected to mobile Internet in Oman

Looking back we pretty much preferred the Mousbak service from Nawras compared to the Hayak service of Oman Mobile. Main difference is the helpdesk. The Oman Mobile helpdesk is staffed with people who speak such a heavy Indian accent it’s very hard to follow what they are saying. A few calls extra were necessary just because of that.



Further more the Oman Mobile helpdesk conversation goes sour when the word “internet” is used. In several cases they think you want to be connected through a DSL line and refer to Oman Telecom. Using terminology like GPRS/EDGE/MMS/APN doesn’t really help either. But the conversation makes sense again after reading the website and mentioning the appropriate service like Taif for MMS.

For internet use through a laptop, mentioning the APN draws a blank with several helpdesk employees. On top of that, the times they promised a follow-up on a question by calling back, it never happened. Maybe it’s just not allowed for 1st line support to call back and registration of helpdesk calls is apparently not done. The next helpdesk employee can’t see or recall what’s been happening before.

So as a non-resident / tourist it seems there’s less hassle when using the Mousbak prepay service from Nawras for internet communication. It just works – there’s no need to get into lengthy helpdesk calls to get GPRS/EDGE/MMS/APN settings. It’s all there in the first place.

WIFI Internet in Oman

We found a few WIFI connections in Oman. Like the coffee shop on the parking of Carrefour supermarket. Everyone gets an hour of WIFI for free when buying a cup of coffee. The WEP code is printed on the receipt. In urban area's in Muscat there were several open non-secured WIFI connections available - hoewever it seemed like the owners weren't aware of it. Default SSID names like linksys and default for WIFI networks hinted a pretty much plug and play installation of the WIFI router.
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