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Telcos are on a continuous journey to provide diversified services and meet the needs of their customers. In spite of all the recent crises, the ICT sector’s leaders have been able to overcome the ensuing challenges and draft futurist strategies. This is the case for Ooredoo Oman. Chief Technology and Information Officer at Ooredoo Oman, Dr. Ahmed Abdullah Al Abri, discussed in an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, how the operator is driving digital innovation.

Can you share Ooredoo Oman’s technological milestones so far in 2022, and how these impact your service delivery going forward?

The focus so far this year has been on using and implementing the latest technology to drive innovation in the customer experience. That has led to improvements in service delivery, speed, capacity and the methods by which customers interact with Ooredoo. We brought a new Digital Customer Relationship Management system online and made significant progress towards a Single Rating platform, both of which intend to leverage the customer touch points and customer experience, in addition to enabling legacy platform migration.

We aspire to get to the stage where the CRM can not only solve customer requests but predict customer concerns, allowing Ooredoo to exceed customer expectations and take them on a journey, offering new products or services, letting them know about promotions, allowing them to experience end-to-end service; things that their usage trends and patterns suggest they will want or need.

Elsewhere, we have enjoyed continued success courtesy of the recently-completed Data Centre, which saw Ooredoo Oman pick up the ‘COMEX Excellence in Technology Award’ for excellence. We have also announced plans for further Data Centres in Salalah, Sohar and Barka to support new mega-projects in each area and underpin Oman’s journey to becoming an advanced digital society as part of Oman’s Vision 2040. The launch of these state-of-the-art Data Centres represents a major breakthrough in hosting and data processing and has set the foundations for the development of transformative technologies such as 5G, cloud services, IoT and other high-potential, high-growth areas.

Furthermore, our nationwide 5G rollout continues at a pace, connecting communities with ultra-fast digital capabilities, which allows customers to do more online wherever they are.

Ooredoo Oman has also achieved ISO 20000-1 Certification, which confirms our commitment to proper service management of information technology and determination to provide users, whether in the public or private sector, with a network supported by an internationally-recognized framework.

What is the importance of a proper technology strategy in the digital transformation journey of Ooredoo Oman, and how is this executed?

Ooredoo’s technology strategy outlines a long-term vision for the company’s growth, in line with the national growth plans set forth by Oman’s Vision 2040. We understand that ICT is the lynchpin of expansion, economic diversification, entrepreneurship and nationwide connectivity.

This journey of digital transformation is integral to the prosperity of the country, and we are proud to be data leaders. In order to achieve these goals, we have embarked upon a systematic program that touches upon internal processes and an external strategy which will outline Ooredoo’s future goals. These include Platforms as a Service (PaaS), Infra as a Service (IaaS) and support for investment in Oman’s Blue Occasion market.

Why is collaboration with varied stakeholders significant in creating, adopting and expanding the best business and connectivity solutions?

As the digital leader in the Sultanate, Ooredoo is committed to bringing customers across the country, in both the public and private sectors, the latest technology for the very best experience. We have partnered with industry leaders, including Huawei, to develop a robust network capable of meeting the needs of customers now and in the future.

In 2021, we also signed a Single Rating contract with Ericsson to migrate and consolidate our online charging system, and an agreement with Finland-based digital business support system (BSS) provider Tecnotree, as vendor for our digital billing system, which is planned for completion by Q2 2023.

We have also lent our support as an alternate wholesale operator within Oman by leveraging the strength of the Ooredoo Group as an international wholesale operator to provide telecommunications solutions to telecom operators and hyper-scalers, such as Skype, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

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 up new possibilities of other businesses with Vodafone Oman encompassing indoor solutions, tower co-location, IP peering and many other areas, which will be explored as Vodafone Oman grows.

The expansion of our Data Centre footprint will ensure businesses remain online, even during times of crisis. As the centerpiece of our IT infrastructure, the Data Centre provides a power capacity of 2.5 megawatts and guarantees around 99.98%+ uptime, according to an internationally-recognized framework. This cost-effective solution helps to support Oman’s growing SME and start-up sector by offering scalable solutions that grow as companies expand.

We are also transforming to be a single window service provider – PaaS, IaaS as well as Software as a Service (SaaS) provider – to fulfill business technology needs. This contributes to and expedites the process at the stage of establishment, operation and most importantly, expansion with minimal expenditure. 

What are the products and services that Ooredoo Oman will focus on in the coming years, and which technologies will the company unleash further?

Our focus is on providing a suite of services, including capacity, infrastructure, co-location, managed services, telepresence, content provision and content delivery networks (CDNs), investment in Data Centres 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 while fulfilling our promise to upgrade our customers' world.

We are also firmly committed to supporting Oman through its own journey of digital transformation, in line with the country’s objectives, and to do this, we have invested in transformative technologies that both broaden internet accessibility and strengthen the digital communications ecosystem across the country.

We believe that Oman is well positioned to be “the” regional data hub that connects East, West and Africa. Hence, we have invested in networks and are diversifying our international connectivity. This strengthens the network overall and brings countries closer together. Ooredoo 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.

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.

Affordable business data connectivity and solutions are instrumental for digital transformation programs in every organization. At Ooredoo, we are committed to this goal, and we continue to capitalize on and develop transformative technologies such as cloud solutions, IoT, SD-WAN and other high-growth sectors.

And, 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, which are ultimately integrated into the world’s economy.

As a customer-centric telco, how will Ooredoo Oman ensure that innovation will benefit clients and consumers effectively?

The continued rollout of 5G nationwide improves the customer experience by allowing users to do more online, enjoy faster download speeds, high-quality streaming, and an altogether smoother online experience. This element of our digital transformation is powering further growth in all sectors of our business, improving connectivity and accessibility to the internet in all areas of the country – especially the more remote communities that rely on network coverage for education, trade and communications.

We have continued to streamline interactions by adding new features to the multi-award-winning Ooredoo App. Customers are now more empowered than ever before to access our full suite of services and account management, anywhere and anytime. This in turn has improved the functionality of our contact center which is now able to handle urgent enquiries quickly and efficiently.

Customer Experience is at the heart of our operations and we have been recognized several times in this field. Our focus on providing an amazing end-to-end customer journey has elevated Ooredoo to a leader in the space within Oman, giving customers the freedom to take control of their communications needs at their own convenience.

Additionally, our investment in cloud solutions through subsidiary data2cloud and our Data Centres has allowed businesses to securely host data within the country, ensuring business uptime and recovery. We have been able to provide an increasingly important service for businesses of all sizes, in the public, private and government sectors across the country and have provided the ability for the services to grow with the organization and add value to the growing B2B segment in Oman.

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