The year 2022 has gone down in history as a momentous one for Vodafone in Oman, launching its commercial operations and taking great leaps towards developing a telecom operator for the future. Today, dreaming big for Oman is not a slogan but an ethos Vodafone has embraced as the Sultanate’s first 100% digital telecom operator, pledging to do things differently while pushing the sector forward with its unique approach, drive for innovation and scalable 5G capabilities.
As Oman’s new-generation telco, Vodafone was the first operator in the country to boast a 5G network from day one, underpinned by a 100% cloud-based network infrastructure. Just one year into operations, the company has laid out a bold roadmap for the future, with plans to cover 60% of Oman’s population with 5G by the end of 2023 and 90% by 2025, all the while exponentially growing its customer base.
“A key objective behind the Omani government’s decision to introduce a third telecom player into the market was to fast track the country’s digital journey by attracting an innovation leader in the industry — and Vodafone is the right partner,” said Bader Al Zidi, CEO of Vodafone Oman.
Vodafone is the second-largest operator in the world, operating one of the most extensive mobile networks globally with over 330 million subscribers. It also owns the largest 5G network in Europe, while its IoT platform is a world benchmark, connecting over 155 million devices in 190 countries.
As a greenfield operator adopting Vodafone’s global best practices while adapting to local market needs, expectations and aspirations, Vodafone Oman has built a unique digital business model that is lean, agile and scalable.
“Vodafone Oman is not meant to be a traditional operator; we are driven by a bigger dream to truly digitalise the Omani way of life,” stated Al Zidi.
The Future Began in 2022
The impact of how Vodafone Oman has been built means that future possibilities are boundless. The company is paving the way to be the nation’s leader in new technology thanks to its capability to support data requirements that can enable all manner of cutting-edge technologies, from real-time virtual and augmented reality to driverless cars and the latest advances in healthcare, improving the quality of life in Oman en route.
Its smart, AI-enabled, Big Data-backed network is a leading beacon in the journey towards taking Oman to the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution — regularly identifying and resolving problems before customers knew they existed, saving them money and, perhaps more importantly, precious time. In fact, Vodafone has put together one of the largest Big Data and analytics clusters in Oman, keeping up with the latest technology demands to keep its network and users secure. The supporting figures are fittingly large: almost half a million mobile users, 3.5 billion events per 24 hours and more than 70 billion processed with machine learning.
Al Zidi explained: “We don’t wait for a call centre to generate tickets. Our system automatically senses abnormalities, so we can react faster to issues. By the end of 2022, we had analysed more than 70 billion incidents. We are using the latest digital technologies, not just because it is [a] ‘trend’ or available, but because it is helping to make our digital services transformative.”
The telco industry is entering a critical next phase of development, and with Vodafone already ahead of the curve in Oman thanks to its digital-first approach and sector-leading technology, the company is well placed to catalyze the ongoing national transition.
Al Zidi added: “Built on the pillars of digital, value creation, creativity and youth, we are striving to become more than a telco as we begin transforming into a techno company of the future that keeps adding more and more relevant products and services to change people’s lives.”
A Year of Network Firsts
Widespread 5G networks are now essential to providing the connectivity demanded by 21st-century consumers. Vodafone Oman was the first company in the Sultanate to successfully test a 5G call on a standalone network, paving the way for the commercial introduction of 5G standalone voice and data services. Oman’s first successful Voice over New Radio (VoNR) proof of concept over a standalone 5G network is part of Vodafone’s ongoing commitment to address innovation and develop a highly efficient and reliable nationwide standalone network, allowing for high-quality, seamless voice and data services.
It was also the first to enable 5G indoor coverage at Muscat International Airport — a capability available only in a few airports around the world — providing a peak rate of up to 500 Mbps, which is fast enough to download an HD movie in one minute or handle as many as 300 Zoom calls at once. The system is dedicated to Vodafone customers and uses the latest technology solutions on the market: Ericsson Dot.
Vodafone’s services are driven by better outdoor coverage and stronger indoor penetration, thanks to a unique 5G radio set-up on low band (700 MHz) and mid band (2,600 MHz) for capacity where needed. Meanwhile, VoLTE calling, using Voice over LTE technology to connect calls over Vodafone Oman’s fast and reliable 4G network, allows for crystal-clear, lag-free calls.
Industry leadership was also achieved with 75% fiber-to-site connectivity — one of the highest in the world. This step allowed the company to ensure future readiness for high data speeds and disaster resilience.
A Greener Outlook
Vodafone Oman’s status as a digital-first operator brings with it great environmental benefits, ensuring it plays its part in contributing to the country and the government's net-zero targets. To cite just two examples, eSIMs vastly reduce waste, and their entire on-boarding journey is digital with zero paper use.
When it came to infrastructure requirements, the company has thought laterally to minimize its footprint: instead of building its own telecom towers, it has leased tower capacity from Oman Tower Company, a local Omani tower, and tried to maximize site sharing as much as possible. Likewise, fiber connectivity to sites has been leased from Oman Broadband, another state-owned company.
Considering what Vodafone has achieved so far, more than any other industry, being digital with everything on the cloud, the company’s carbon footprint is substantially smaller and kinder to the environment.
A Successful Track Record
The first year of Vodafone Oman’s commercial operations in the Sultanate perfectly demonstrated the scale of exactly what could be attained by doing things differently. Achieving 96% of its subscriber base target, Vodafone closed 2022 with more than 450,000 customers, capturing approximately 7% of the market (against an initial target of 5%).
Vodafone’s competitive edge centered around its award-winning App, with a fully digital onboarding process, auto payment, SIM and eSIM replacement, government services and much more. Today, it is a one-stop shop offering speed, convenience and personalized value-add to both pre-paid and post-paid customers across Oman. With more than two million downloads, it is the only telecom app in Oman with 100% market penetration.
A recent agreement with Digital Virgo is also set to unlock myriad instant premium value-added content, including video streaming, gaming and entertainment, all available through the My Vodafone App.
Beyond this, Vodafone Oman’s digital-led agility has created significant socio-economic benefits. Catalyzed by partnerships with international and local companies, including SMEs, its in-country spend has reached OMR 68 million, generating hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in the market.
Its powerful global brand and access to expertise from more than 28 countries have allowed Vodafone to enrich and drive innovation and creativity with local Omani SMEs, bringing the best of Vodafone to Oman while taking the best of Oman to the world.
“Our first year of operations was a truly remarkable journey, filled with excitement, innovations, challenges and learnings. I am very proud of our accomplishments, but we are refusing to rest on our laurels. The sky is the limit to what we can provide our customers,” concluded Al Zidi.