THE DATA REVOLUTION

Oman 2017 | TELECOMS & IT | FOCUS: DATA

Data usage and associated services continue to explode throughout Oman.

Oman enjoys an uncharacteristically high mobile phone penetration rate. In recent years, it has grown to put Oman 15th in the world in terms of mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 people, according to the World Economic Forum's network readiness index. Displaying these statistics in more interesting terms, there are over 2.2 million more mobile phone subscriptions than there are people in Oman, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA), averaging out to around 1.5 mobile subscriptions per person. This increasingly mobile trend carries with it more implications for the country. Hand-in-hand with the mobile explosion is the proliferation of mobile broadband internet subscriptions, which greatly outnumber fixed-line broadband subscriptions. Around 40% of Omani households have a fixed line internet connection, while 155% of Omanis have mobile subscriptions, which translates into over 3.3 million subscribers. Commenting on this phenomenon, Ooredoo CEO Greg Young told TBY that the company's mobile data services expanded by 80% in the past year alone, underpinned by the mass use of popular apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. Seeing as the country's fixed-line internet connection rate remains one of the lowest in the GCC, its overwhelming preference appears to lie in the use of mobile internet due to its accessibility and flexibility.

There has, in fact, been so much mobile phone development in Oman that the TRA will open a new level of number blocks starting with the number seven, as opposed to the current regime whereby mobile phones all have numbers starting with the number nine. Businesses and the government of Oman have also begun to take notice of the growing mobile trends by incorporating mobile devices and apps into government activity and new business models. The Information Technology Authority has incorporated mobile phones into its authentication process for access to government portals through its Tam initiative, for example. In addition, the Ministry of Transport and Communications recently unveiled its plans for a new taxi regime that allows customers to book taxis via their mobile device, which will mark the first time such an app is available in the sans-Uber Sultanate.

The data revolution does not start and stop with the mass development of mobile services either. As data rises in quantity and importance, the management of data is becoming such a prominent issue that businesses have had to make important economic decisions based on their data needs. This has given rise to third-party companies offering the opportunity to outsource a company's IT services through the advent of private data parks. These data companies have become increasingly attractive to companies as associated IT costs have ballooned alongside their proliferation. Now, instead of needing a team of IT professionals to manage the data servers and other technical details, all the data can be stored within one of these third-party companies. One such company is Oman Data Park, which already has many Omani banks established in its professional clientele.