GROWTH CABLE

Oman 2015 | TELECOMS & IT | FOCUS: FIBER-OPTIC ROLLOUT

Oman has been slower to adopt fiber optics than its GCC neighbors Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but is making up for lost time with a focused social and commercial orientation.

THE VISION

The government of Oman is well aware of the need to leverage technology for broad social advancement and sustainable economic growth. Key to this are the myriad applications of fiber optics in its telecommunications and industrial infrastructure. Yet, industry data cited by Fiber Optic Mania indicates that close to 95% of telecommunications infrastructure worldwide is reliant on private sector investment, which begs the question of how to ensure a social dimension that transcends the commercial imperative by narrowing the digital divide. Indeed, broadband layout is essential for the government to realize its Omani Economy 2020 vision of becoming a digital society of diversified industrial matrix.

At the forefront of related endeavor is Oman's Information Technology Authority (ITA). It has been tasked with the ambitious eOman strategy. As CEO Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi explained to TBY that “eOman is the vehicle driving the country toward becoming a knowledge-based economy. We are an enabler for all sectors, from the government to the private sector."

ROLL OUT THE CABLE

In the current communications era, where data has overtaken voice, the name of the game is enhanced end user experience. The Sultanate of Oman's state-owned telecommunication service provider, Omantel, has vastly increased the speed of its broadband offering due to the rollout of fiber-optic cabling of vast data carrying capacity. Broadband delivered over fiber-optic networks is seen as a catalyst for both innovation and knowledge sharing, empowering even remotely located citizens to participate in national progress. Broadband has been approached in the context of a social commitment. To realize this project, Oman's Council of Ministers has resolved to establish a new state-owned National Broadband Company to oversee the nationwide rollout of fiber optic broadband over the coming years. The nature and precise role of the company will be based on the conclusions of a joint study undertaken by, among other entities, the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC), the Telecommunication Regulation Authority (TRA), and the Information Technology Authority.

To date, beyond the optical fibers themselves, manufactured by local firm Oman Fiber Optic, the Sultanate has relied on imported technology for its cabling needs. One goal now is for the future National Broadband Company to incentivize more local content development. Research cited by Fiber Optic Mania illustrates that 10% growth in a nation's broadband infrastructure results in close to 1.5% growth in GDP. The government has already fostered broadband take-up by funding showcase projects. One example was Haya Water's fiber-optic cable network in Muscat, where the utility company harnessed broadband cabling to its existing pipes to provide fiber-optic connectivity to households. Meanwhile, additional spectrums have been allocated to mobile phone operators on the government's dollar to expedite the availability of 4G mobile services.

Oman is already a landing point for submarine fiber-optic cable networks including Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) and the SEA-ME-WE-3. Thus, in a longer-term perspective, the government is keen to see Oman evolve into a digital hub linking South and South East Asian countries with Europe.

AN INDUSTRIAL APPLICATION

The International Quality and Productivity Center (IQPC) highlights a key industrial application of fiber optics; namely the integration of intelligent fiber links with monitoring systems. This is useful in remote sensing in the oil sector, enabling well and reservoir management teams (WRMT) to gauge such variables as pressure, density, and temperature. As the IQPC puts it, “Integration of production monitoring systems like permanent downhole technology with surface data communication, monitoring and surveillance systems is the key for companies who are now looking at consolidating their vast fiber infrastructure using intelligent and structured cabling methods to drive monitoring and operational efficiency."