Dec. 24, 2021


Bader Saud Al Zaidi

Oman

Bader Saud Al Zaidi

Former CEO, Oman Broadband Company

With the great deal of attention on the ICT sector from the government, Oman Broadband has much to be positive about in the medium term.

BIO

Bader Saud Al Zaidi was previously CEO of Oman Broadband Company. He has over 18 years of work experience in the ICT domain, having previously served in Omantel. He is a board member in the FTTH MENA council and previously served as the chairman of the regulatory and policy committee within the council. He has written few whitepapers/articles that were published in an internationally recognized conferences in the domain of 5G and FTTH network design and rollout. Al Zaidi completed his honors degree in computer science and MBA from Strathclyde University, UK. He also holds master of program management and master of project management certificates from George Washington University in the US.


In which directions have you expanded your services, and how are you progressing with the fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) initiative?

We are now finalizing phase one of our expansion plan. We have rolled out FTTH to more than 460,000 homes in Oman (or nearly 50% of the housing units) and covered 91% of Muscat and 30% of the outside regions. In parallel, we have already started our phase two expansion plan that has three unique features and should be completed by 2030. First, we plan to allocate an element of our investment through a public-private partnership and the tender is currently being floated. We hope that some of the local community companies can participate in this because the return on investment would not only be financial. It will also boost businesses in the area and support broadband to schools for their children's education. Second, we will introduce another technology, fixed wireless access, in order to complement FTTH. We will commercialize our trial that was started last year, though in parallel we want to tap into the C-band spectrum that is used for 5G technology. The negotiations with the regulator are moving well regarding that. The third thing is providing a broadband service to remote areas through an initiative from the government. There has been a subsidiary allocated by the government worth around OMR15 million over 10 years. The service was launched at the end of 2020. In terms of coverage, we have already reached 600 remote villages, which includes connections to about 90 schools and many houses that had almost no telecoms service. This broadband service is unique, as it is open access over satellite medium. We have signed with Ooredoo and Omantel and have been overwhelmed by the number of requests we received for the supply of terminals and connections. We were expecting to have a demand of around 600-700 in a year but received 500 in two months. Through these three approaches, by the end of phase two, around 75% of the housing units in Oman should be connected through fiber, another 10% will be through fixed wireless access on our side, close to 14% would be through supporting the operators connecting their towers with fiber, and 1% on satellite. Ultimately, our plan is for every single house in Oman to have broadband service.

What led to your decision to be listed at the Muscat Securities Market in 2023? What role will that play in your long-term strategy?

It is actually part of our license obligation—in January 2019, we were given five years to go public. We have progressed rapidly as a company and delivered broadband infrastructure to almost 50% of the homes in Oman. We set an IPO target for 2023, but we will prepare ourselves ahead of that. It all depends on the market readiness as well because we want to do the IPO when we can get a decent value for our shares.

What is your outlook for the year ahead?

In 2021, we should be able to fast track the migration of users using other technologies into fiber and reach a decent number toward 2022. We will also start on fixed wireless, as the need for solid infrastructure is becoming obvious to everyone. There is a great deal of attention on the ICT sector from the government, which will be a positive thing for Oman Broadband. We have Vodafone as a new client and have started setting up the infrastructure to support it. A new mobile operator will increase the competition in the telecom sector in Oman. We have been receiving requests to backhaul its mobile sites with fiber as preparation for that, and many orders are already coming up. Fortunately in 2020, we made an agreement with all six electricity companies to leverage on their infrastructure. This allows us to provide competitive offers to the operators so they can shift their backhaul to fiber.

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