The first phase of a universal service project for areas of Oman underserved by telecoms operators will be implemented by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) in 2011, the Khaleej Times reports. Under the new policy, a tender will be held to award a ten-year universal service obligation (USO) permit. The licensee will initially be responsible for offering basic fixed and mobile telephony to underserved areas, as well as dial-up internet with minimum download speeds of at least 28kbps, reaching 512kbps within three years. The deployment of such networks will be subsidised by the government. Colonel Mohsin bin Alawi Al Hafeedh of the TRA said that the project intends to provide telecoms services to 118 rural settlements, 57 of which must be serviced during the first phase. According to the TRA official, any local or international firm with experience in the field and resources will be eligible to bid for the project, including the country’s two largest telecoms operators, Omantel and Nawras. The successful licensee will be the one that asks for the lowest subsidy, which will be paid by the state in ten annual installments.