In the spotlight of the August 2022 edition, Telecom Review had an exclusive interview with Omantel’s CEO Talal Said Al Mamari, the kingpin of the company since June 2014 and a well-seasoned telecom professional with 26 years of experience. Under his term, critical initiatives and projects have been carried out including the company’s 750-million-dollar initial public offering (IPO) sale in 2005, the restructuring of Omantel that brought the mobile and fixed operations together, and the acquisition of a 21.9% stake in Zain Group, the biggest transaction of its kind in the region.
Impressively, Omantel Group reported a net profit of RO 128.6 million for the first six months of 2022, an 18.4% year-on-year growth, compared with the RO 108.6 million posted in the corresponding period of 2021. This is a testimony that the Omani-based company is moving towards a positive trajectory that is in line with its values and objectives.
Connectivity, Omantel’s core business, is a key pillar for digital transformation. With this in mind, finding the simplest ways to accelerate connectivity and drive customer success solidifies Omantel’s position as a wholesale connectivity leader.
By combining Oman’s history of stability, neutrality and openness with the lowest latency networking, the company ensures that its partners are supported with the best possible network infrastructure while promoting a healthy global wholesale market. The vision of delivering robust and reliable telecommunication services to customers even in the world’s most challenging markets, together with meeting their expectations toward the best customer satisfaction experience, has pushed Omantel to be an ICT pioneer, one that has emerged as a trusted partner for customers’ technology needs.
As the first telco in Oman – and the primary internet services provider in the country – quality, reliability and performance empower Omantel to bring families, businesses and communities together, in every corner of Oman and around the globe. The huge responsibility of delivering the best communications experience requires Omantel’s management team to be a powerful mix of expertise, experience, integrity and strategic thinking that can lead a culture of growth through innovation.
With confidence, Al Mamari shared his perspective on the digital ambition of Omantel, the key actions in enabling improved customer experience and the long-term role of the company within the thriving ICT sector in Oman.
Omantel’s reputation is built upon strong performance, resiliency and digital transformation. How does this reflect in 2022 and beyond?
Our “Shift Gear” strategy, which focuses on value creation, digital transformation, customer experience and efficiencies on one hand and building an ecosystem of innovation around us on the other hand, has clearly helped us navigate through the ever-changing market landscape. The launch of a third mobile operator in the midst of an economically challenging period has intensified competitive pressures. Albeit with this significant market development, we anticipate new opportunities, especially in the Enterprise, Government, and ICT markets, as well as potential growth driven by the improving economic situation. In addition, our investment in Zain continues to provide us with less exposure to the risk of operating in a single market and further improves our resiliency.
How could Omantel's groundbreaking launches this year have a long-term impact on the innovation scene in the country?
At the beginning of this year, we celebrated the launch of the Omantel Innovation Labs. We now have a cohort of six companies incubated in our accelerator program. The program supports innovative companies in domains such as Fintech, AI, IoT and E-commerce, becoming a key pillar of the broader hi-tech entrepreneurship ecosystem that we aspire to build. Also, Omantel’s Innovation Labs boosts innovation in the country through the organization of Hackathons and Boot camps. Our co-working space not only allows the start-ups to learn from each other, but also brings them into direct contact with Omantel as an organization, allowing new ideas and concepts to emerge.
As Oman's leading ICT solutions provider, what are the key actions in enabling an improved customer experience for both consumers and enterprises alike?
Outstanding customer experience is a mission-critical differentiator for Omantel in today’s rapidly-changing digital age. We are dedicated to and passionate about improving and enhancing customer experience in each and every interaction with our customers across various channels.
Our customer experience initiatives are two-fold. Firstly, our initiatives aim to ensure meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, providing a world-class customer experience. In parallel, we enable our enterprise customers to ultimately offer a greater customer experience to their clients through our technology solutions offerings.
At Omantel, we have carefully analyzed how our customers prefer to interact with us. We continue to look into our existing customer-facing and non-customer-facing processes to develop new initiatives and transform them. Digitalizing our processes has been a key priority for Omantel and shall remain a focus going forward. We have deployed state-of-the-art technologies such as big data analytics and artificial intelligence to turn our vision into reality.
At the same time, based on our own experiences and learnings from the market, we have introduced several ICT and digital solutions which further enabled our enterprise customers to enhance their customer experience. In the long run, we are committed to continue evolving.
Growing at a significant pace, what developments can we expect from Omantel's various lines of business?
The biggest growth potential is anticipated in the ICT domain as both the government and enterprises are on a continuous digital transformation journey. Omantel is very well positioned to provide innovative solutions and services to meet this increasing demand. We also continue to leverage the position of Oman and our investments in the subsea cable systems and data centers to attract major hyperscalers to the country and bolster Oman’s position as a strategic hub for the region.
What drives Omantel’s success in being a distinguished player in the globalization of wholesale business?
The wholesale business unit in Omantel has undergone an extraordinary transformation journey over the last decade – from being a party dependent on other regional wholesale providers for fulfilling its own requirements to becoming a main wholesale provider serving telecom operators, hyperscalers and content providers locally, regionally and globally.
Such a remarkable transformation has only been achieved through an ambitious and well-defined strategy that capitalized on Oman’s unique geographical location, attracted investments in human and network assets and created new business models. All of this resulted in gradually changing the wholesale landscape and eventually made Omantel an industry leader in the wholesale arena.
Instead of relying on individual projects, Omantel Wholesale introduced the Global Wholesale Integration Program, a comprehensive program focused on various wholesale strategic pillars such as:
- Building an international, diversified and high-capacity submarine network connecting Oman with the rest of the world. This network includes investments in more than 20 global submarine cable systems, with reachability to more than 120 cities across the globe. Omantel also became the first GCC operator to land a submarine cable in the European Union through its landing station in Marseille under the AAE-1 submarine cable which is one of the largest submarine cable systems of its kind.
- Launching an advanced International Network Operations Centre (INOC), a state-of-the-art 24/7 facility that is specifically tailored to meet the needs of the cloud and content-centric market in addition to monitoring and supporting Omantel’s international terrestrial and submarine cable systems.
- Inaugurating data centers that will serve as a regional interconnection hub between key global business markets. In partnership with Equinix, the world’s leading international data center operator, these are namely MC1, the MENA region’s first carrier-neutral data center located in Barka and SN1, the newly announced carrier-neutral data center in Salalah which will undoubtedly change the landscape of global traffic flows between three major continents, having access to several new and existing submarine cables.
- Ongoing rollout of international roaming with close to 700 operators in over 210 countries, in addition to the recently introduced 5G data roaming services.
- Boosting operations under Omantel International (OTI), an international wholesale company managing the group’s international voice carrier business as well as international value-added services.
These game-changing approaches, to name a few, have thrust Omantel into the wholesale leadership position. As a result, the biggest international telecom players and hyperscalers are partnering with Omantel, with many of them hosting their regional servers in Oman. Consequently, more than 80% of the internet access of Omantel’s users is now served locally. Such partnerships, in addition to their business and economic benefits, are directly linked to enhanced customer experience on all fronts including access to high-speed internet and gaming.
The Global Wholesale Integration Program is dynamic and keeps evolving to cover the future needs of Omantel and its clients. It undergoes continuous updates and enhancements to stay on par with global developments, with an aim of further strengthening Omantel’s position as a global wholesale hub and strategically aligns with Oman Vision 2040.
How do you plan to accelerate Omantel's digital ambition to achieve sustainable growth?
Our digital transformation is one of the primary elements to improve the way we provide services to our customers. Combined with leveraging the insights derived from data and intelligence, we continue to add more value to our products and provide tangible benefits for our customers. Hence, on one hand, we reduce our operational costs and on the other hand, we increase the value offered to our customers in order to achieve our core strategic objective of sustainable growth.
What is your outlook on the ICT sector in Oman and what role will Omantel play in this?
Following the recovery from the pandemic, the ICT market in Oman, and the Middle East region in general, is expected to grow after witnessing recent movements in the market. The higher allocation of budget for ICT in the state-owned entities, semi-government and private organizations, as well as the efforts taken specifically by government agencies in Oman for both nationwide digital transformation and the enterprises’ digital maturation, will drive the growth and demand for ICT solutions.
Omantel will continue playing a vital role in developing a digitally-capable society with its innovative propositions focused across consumer, government, private and SMB segments.
Connectivity, Omantel’s core business, is a key pillar in any digital transformation project. For this reason, we continue to bring the best-in-class and latest technologies to provide highly available and redundant services. The rollout of Omantel 5G and related initiatives will provide a platform for our customers to test and deploy use cases which were not possible before. Omantel’s digital infrastructure coupled with its investments in submarine cables and data centers provide greater opportunities to support the digital initiatives of enterprises in Oman and across the region.
Our investment in ICT continues and can currently be observed through our active involvement in consolidating and acquiring companies with different expertise in ICT and digital technologies. Omantel’s ICT capabilities, along with its group companies and partnerships, have made Omantel the preferred partner for digital transformation in Oman. Furthermore, our ICT unit is steadily focused on raising the bar in order to offer one-stop ICT solutions that will respond to the issues and challenges being faced by enterprises.
We are fully committed and aligned with Oman’s 2040 vision and looking forward to extending the required support needed through Omantel’s comprehensive ICT and digital solutions. This will enable government entities and enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives.