Oman is believed to be well positioned as the regional data hub connecting East, West and Africa. As one of the key ICT players in the country, Sultan Al Wahaibi, Chief Business & Wholesale Officer, Ooredoo Oman shares how the company aims to stay at the forefront when it comes to innovation and collaboration, as well as ensuring high service and connectivity standards, both locally and internationally.
Can you share the latest performance insights on Ooredoo Business Services?
Businesses are the engine of an economy, and it is our mission to support companies of all sizes by extending our presence to all regions of the Sultanate and providing them with solutions and services that can flex, grow and develop alongside their businesses. We are developing our services to cater to our customers’ individual needs, and have launched several products that provide customization and flexibility, including Oman’s first “build your own” plans.
We recognize that ICT is at the forefront of the global digital revolution and we have partnered with some of the top experts in the sector to continue delivering a leading service. Recently, we launched ICT enterprise-grade productivity suites through Microsoft 365, and over the coming months, we’ll be diversifying our product portfolio to offer bundled services that include ICT solutions.
In line with Oman’s 2040 Vision to be a digitally-advanced economy, affordable business data connectivity is instrumental for digital transformation programs in every organization. At Ooredoo, we are committed to this goal, and we continue to develop and capitalize on transformative technologies such as cloud solutions, IoT, SD-WAN and other high-growth sectors.
Along with our government sector partners, we have been working with DIAM and NEC on the country’s first Internet of Things (IoT) network in the form of smart water meters. Indeed, we are supporting Oman to keep pace with global technological and industrial trends that will ultimately be integrated into the world’s economy.
Developing our infrastructure is key to staying ahead of the curve and meeting the evolving digital requirements of our customers. We celebrated the inauguration of our new flagship data center in 2021 when the 7,000sqm facility was finished well ahead of schedule. Furthermore, the construction and delivery of this center was and is supported using the services and products of many local providers, helping to engage and nurture Oman’s economy further. Representing a major breakthrough in hosting and data processing, to date, the data center has not only helped us become more agile and efficient by streamlining technologies and processes, it has set the foundation for delivering an outstanding experience to our customers.
How does Ooredoo Oman's position as a connectivity and digital leader impact the telco's wholesale business?
As the digital leader in the Sultanate, Ooredoo positions itself as an alternative wholesale operator within Oman, and leverages the strength of Ooredoo Group as an international wholesale operator, providing telecommunications solutions to telecom operators and hyperscalers such as Skype, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo.
Our focus is on providing a suite of wholesale services, including capacity, infrastructure, co-location, managed services, telepresence, content provision and content delivery networks (CDNs), as well as investment in data centers and subsea systems. We strive to adopt the latest technologies in the smartest ways to cater to the country’s ever-evolving online and communications needs, all while fulfilling our promise to enrich our customers’ digital lives.
We are also firmly committed to supporting Oman through its own journey of digital transformation, in line with the objectives of the government-led Oman Vision 2040. In order to do this, we have invested in transformative technologies that both broaden internet accessibility and strengthen the digital communications ecosystem across the country.
In 2021, Ooredoo signed a three-year national roaming agreement with the third mobile entrant into the market, Vodafone Oman. The deal will have a significant impact on wholesale revenues and open new possibilities of additional businesses with Vodafone Oman, encompassing indoor solutions, tower co-location, IP peering and many other areas which will be explored as Vodafone Oman’s footprint grows.
We believe that Oman is well positioned to be the regional data hub that connects the East, the West and Africa. Hence, we have invested in the necessary networks and are diversifying our international connectivity. This strengthens the network overall and brings countries closer together. Our wholesale department successfully bid for and won a tender to provide cable landing facilities to 2Africa (2AF) at Salalah and Barka, joining a global consortium of communications operators. The 2Africa cable system is one of the largest subsea projects in the world, connecting 46 cable-landing stations in 33 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, with a cable length of 45,000km, making it the longest subsea cable system ever deployed.
Originating in Egypt (East) and UK (West), and converging in South Africa, the network will link several West and East African countries along the route. The system has now been extended into the Arabian Gulf as part of the 2Africa Pearls project which will extend the connection to Oman, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq and Kuwait, as well as through to India and Pakistan. The first landing was completed in April 2022, in Genoa, Italy, and the entire project is due to be completed in 2024. Furthermore, Ooredoo is working with an international data center partner to launch a state-of-the-art carrier-neutral data center in Salalah that will attract international players to host their data requirements in Oman.
We have also developed a strategy to be a major player in the region to provide transit access facilities to major international operators and hyperscalers through Oman by leveraging its national network and connectivity to the GCC and beyond through its submarine cables and other Ooredoo affiliates. This will open new wholesale revenue streams henceforth and allow Ooredoo to continue investing in the future of digital across Oman and the region.
How does Ooredoo Oman ensure high service and connectivity standards, locally and internationally?
Technology has become the driving force in supporting economic growth and business continuity, and Ooredoo’s vision is to both enrich peoples’ digital lives and cater to the growing demand, not only in the Sultanate, but in the region.
We are continuing to invest in networks and spread our international connectivity with low-latency to further service high-end requirements. The centerpiece of our IT infrastructure is the aforementioned flagship data center, featuring a power capacity of 2.5 megawatts and guaranteeing around 99.98%+ uptime, according to an internationally-recognized framework. Despite being up and running for only a year, we’re proud to say that the data center has already won two prestigious awards.
Our commitment to digital transformation mounts internally, as well. The three-phase digital CRM contract continues apace and is planned to be completed by December 2022. In 2021, we also signed a single rating contract with Ericsson to migrate and consolidate our online charging system, in addition to our agreement with Finland-based digital business support system (BSS) provider Tecnotree, to be vendor for our digital billing system, which is planned for completion by Q2 2023.
In the last year, we have also launched a new intranet platform known as Mawared, and a disaster recovery set-up through our mobile app. We have continued to innovate, update and improve each of our IT systems to stay ahead of the curve within Oman and to maximize our support to our customers.
Ooredoo Group has been on a digital transformation journey for some years now, investing in networks, technology and people. The Group has, at its core, a robust strategy designed to ensure the organization is future-proof and well placed to leverage our technologies, expertise and partnerships to create an unrivalled customer experience. With so many aspects of people’s lives now online – and demand for fast, reliable networks ever increasing – the role of a quality connectivity provider has never been more important, and we shoulder this responsibility with pride.
This digital-first strategy will continue throughout 2022. We will stay focused on being agile and adaptable, and on maintaining a culture of innovation both within our organization and in our many partnerships with world-leading technology providers. As we move into the second half of 2022, we will – in alignment with the Group strategy – continue to innovate with our products and services, improving our mobile and fixed line services, further expanding our network to provide superior connectivity across the entire Sultanate and increasing our investment in a 5G-empowered Oman.
We will also continue to support Oman’s economic growth in line with Oman’s 2040 Vision to be a digitally-advanced economy as a new era of competition dawns. Importantly, we will remain steadfastly committed to our customers by offering them a seamless, unrivalled digital experience. Since launching 5G last year, we have continued to develop our cloud services and IoT, and have introduced several competitive plans for consumer and corporate users. Available to an ever-expanding number of locations across Oman, our 5G network now covers the majority of the population in the country. We are also continuing to expand the network to cover the whole of Oman in the near future.
What is the key to implementing cost-effective access to international nodes and managing carrier business for global capacities, IP transit and data services?
The key to being cost-effective is to be near to our customers with a hub-and-spoke network architecture. As part of the Ooredoo Group, Ooredoo Oman is leveraging international reach and other Ooredoo OpCo networks, to build a virtual network to cater to any demand placed on Oman, and within the region, by the rest of the world. Ooredoo Oman has access to more than 17 subsea cable systems and benefits from being very competitive, able to offer cost-effective tariffs from global alliances with carrier-neutral data centers (CNDCs), subsea cable systems operators, content providers and technology vendors.
What is your future outlook on the telecom wholesale business, in general, and how will Ooredoo Oman continue to fulfil its role in this area?
Ooredoo’s determination for the future is to build global alliances with telecom, OTT and content providers, acting as a key differentiator in being a leading wholesale services provider within Oman and the greater region. Ooredoo will continue to invest in future technologies and systems with analytical and AI-enabled tools. The virtualization of the network will also bring in a lean and fully-automated process, resulting in operational excellence and cost-effectiveness.
Elsewhere, our focus remains on the future market, which is becoming more competitive. The telecom market in Oman now has five mobile service providers, with three mobile network operators (MNOs) and two mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). We also have three fixed network operators. We are confident that we can gain market share by offering innovative, value-added digital products and services, supported by a great network and a unique customer experience. We aim to stay at the forefront when it comes to innovation and collaboration, and this extends to our wholesale business.
Our long-term strategy is still centered on the country’s digital transformation – nurturing the development of its people and responding to its ever-evolving communications needs. As our journey continues, we are carving out an even bigger path for technologies like 5G and IoT, catering to the ever-growing appetite for mobile and internet services, supporting SMEs and providing more value than ever. We are also finding new ways of segmenting our business to keep us ahead of the curve when it comes to both competition and technology implementation.
Ultimately, as the country embarks on a new phase of growth, we are leveraging the power of communications and the reach of the Ooredoo Group to stimulate economic and social development, while boldly positioning Oman to thrive and Ooredoo to lead globally.