How is OBC coordinating infrastructure growth with Oman's public utilities?
We have signed several MoUs that are focused on having better alignment to various utility providers, allowing us to be involved at the early stage of project development and consequently be a part of the major infrastructure rollout. For example, with the Public Authority for Electricity and Water, we are jointly working on a deployment of the fiber network along with water projects across Oman. This approach creates significant synergies; from one side savings are secured, while from the other, disturbance to the citizens during the construction phase is minimized.
Are you on track to achieve the 2020 goals for coverage in Muscat and the country as a whole?
Within Muscat, we are positive that we are going to exceed our originally planed goals for 2020. Outside of Muscat, since our rollout depends on other utility providers, we are committed to achieve our goals but currently we can not accurately predict whether targets will be overachieved due various dependencies. Having in mind that implementation of fiber, compared to other utilities such as water is easier and quicker, our initial project timelines in some areas may be affected, but on the other hand as previously noted, that approach generates significant savings. It's is important to mention that in cases where we see that utility deployment project will be delayed beyond acceptable timeline, we are engaging into so called “stand alone” deployment to secure fibre access to wider public within acceptable timeline.
How does your relationship with service providers operate?
We, as an infrastructure service provider, work under the regulation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA), from whom we have been granted a license to build and operate nation-wide passive fiber network. Our clients are three existing fixed line operators who are at the same time Internet Service Providers (ISP), as well as some government institutions. It is important to note that we are not directly dealing with end customers, that segment is under ISPs, so we play the role of a wholesale service provider. The biggest advantage of having the open access network, used by the three ISPs is that the competition is shifted from the infrastructure to services, where it should be. The government's aim was to create an environment where the end user has better options, quality, and prices without unnecessary investment and we are happy to say that the plan works.
How is OBC's fiber network facilitating “smart” practices into government and industry?
One of our main tasks is to enable the government to be “smart”, so part of our project is to directly connect the government entities with fiber optic. A good example of such initiative is the project we commenced in 2016 with ITA, to interconnect all the head offices of the government and connect them to data centers to have a parallel network dedicated to the government services. So far, we have completed about 40-50% of the work and are eyeing completion in mid-2019. In general, having in mind that 4th Industrial evolution is here, we need to plan wisely and take into consideration that Oman Broadband will be serving multiple operators as well as services and platforms related to IoT and smart applications, therefore we are building today an infrastructure that is beyond Oman's current requirements. Building this infrastructure now is much easier than thinking how to upgrade it afterwards, as it is clear the fiber is and will remain to be a crucial connectivity technology. With this approach we are directly contributing to e-Oman vision.
How does Oman's regulatory framework support OBC's goals?
The national broadband strategy depends on three main pillars: a) the regulation and reworking of the regulation to serve the future applications; b) stimulating the demand and c) building the new and utilizing the existing broadband infrastructure which is the directly linked with the formation and mandate of Oman Broadband Company. From the beginning, the vision of the country was clear; to build an integrated infrastructure that is set to be used by future technologies.
What are OBC's objectives for the next 12 months?
One of the main objectives is to fulfill our commitments regarding the roll out plans. Another objective of significant importance is to complement the missing parts of the infrastructure in the Sultanate. To that end, we have participated in the creation of a tower company along with government as well as private sector stakeholders. Our focus remains broadband infrastructure but having the tower company will complement our work and befit the country as any new player coming into the market will have the infrastructure already available. In the next 12 months, we plant to get this company up and running at full speed like Oman Broadband. We are also focusing on integrating more of our work with other government entities to create the momentum of having a solid and robust infrastructure. The idea is to follow the government's direction in empowering some of the commercial industry areas in Oman like Duqm, Salalah Free Zone, and some free zones around Sohar. The company is working hard on getting all the zones connected to high speed technology, turning them into smart industrial areas. Since being a broadband provider doesn't restrict the company from providing capacity-based infrastructure instead of dark fiber, we are working on providing this for the newcomers of smart applications.