How would you rate Oman's telecoms sector?
I would rate it as highly competitive, both at the local level, in terms of the availability of products, services, and pricing, and also regionally and globally. That is evidenced in a number of ways. We have extensive 3G capabilities across most parts of our coverage footprint, and across Oman. We also introduced 4G technology around 18 months ago, and are continuing to expand our 4G footprint. From a technology perspective, we are well served on the national level. And, finally, I believe one of the most important statistics is our mobile penetration rate of 150%, which is high by global standards.
Which segments of the market are you targeting to widen your own share?
One of the key areas will be data services. That means having a broadband data capability, both at home and on your mobile phone, whatever you wish to do and wherever you are. It is a key and fundamental part of our strategy to grow our market share, and in fact, this is what customers are demanding. Then, of course, building on top of that, there are the various services or applications that drive customers' data usage. Social media is extremely popular in Oman. We have also seen high levels of usage in over-the-top (OTT) content, whether through WhatsApp, other types of instant messaging, or voice communications. Part of our strategy is to make sure that we have a widespread, capable data service available to customers, either 3G or, in the future, 4G, to meet those requirements. However, we have recognized that the market is becoming increasingly fragmented in terms of different user segments and the specific needs they have.
What is Ooredoo doing to provide easy and efficient access to the internet?
We have built our own fiber-optic network in the country to serve not only our own network and connect all our base stations together, but also to serve business and enterprise customers, whether the organization happens to be a company involved in oil and gas exploration and production, an SME in Muscat, or a multinational company with operations in Oman. We now have the ability to connect our own fiber network to their premises, which allows us to provide them with not only local services to connect their head offices to their branches or to their remote exploration locations, but also to their international locations. Many of the enterprises that operate in Oman are part of larger multinationals, naturally enough in the oil, gas, and exploration space, but also in the construction, imports, ports, and airports segments. Those are the three key areas of investment. To date, since we started our network “Turbocharging" program in 2012, we have invested more than OMR80 million in our network and its modernization and expansion. That represents a capital to revenue investment ratio of over 30%—more than double the global average.
What are the main challenges and obstacles that you are facing here in the country?
Customers are using OTT services increasingly, with WhatsApp being the best example. A company that is operating outside Oman was recently sold for a large sum with minimal investment, and this is a challenge that all operators around the world are facing. We are investing significant amounts of money to provide a capability for our customers to use telecoms services. However, we have OTT players that typically do not invest a great deal but generate, in many cases, quite significant amounts of revenue. They are therefore benefiting from the investments that we are making. Some of these overseas companies then have no local presence and so they are also exempt from local taxes or duties. That said, we believe that the market here is quite well served from a competitive perspective.