100% FIBER OPTIC NETWORK

Oman 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdul Monem Al-Futaisi, COO of Awasr, on broadband internet, Oman's Vision 2020, and adaptability.

Awasr is recognized as having the fastest broadband network in Oman. What strategy has the company followed since inception to reach this milestone?

We are the fastest internet provider in Oman because that is what we set out to be. We always had it in our minds, and we knew that for a small company to compete we had to be the best. We started our operation in March 2016 and from the very beginning we had a clear focus on achieving our vision: to lead creativity and innovation to allow our subscribers to leverage the power of the internet. When we started operations, we focused on key delivery elements; to deliver the latest technologies, offer the best quality products, provide a superior level of customer service, and to innovate. These four pillars are the reasons for our success considering that within a year we became innovation leaders in the market. We are also the first company to operate a 100% fiber optic network in Oman, the first to introduce an online ordering system for home connectivity, and the first to introduce 1Gbps speed to the consumer and to offer 10Gbps basic broadband speed for large enterprise. With the latest technologies and the way our network is set up, we are well capable of delivering 100Gbps speed to the market. For now, however, we will begin testing 40Gbps and assess our performance and market demand. Considering our recognition from Ookla recognizing Awasr as the fastest internet provider in Oman and our collaboration with other operators, we can only get better at delivering the fastest network in Oman.

How is Awasr working to help achieve the government's Vision 2020?

In order for the country to achieve our vision for 2020, Oman needs to undergo a digital transformation and Awasr intends to be at the forefront of that transformation. We have agreed a partnership with the international solutions company SAP. Our project with SAP to deliver the HANA Enterprise Cloud, which will serve companies of all sizes in different sectors, especially SMEs with fully fledged software solutions, customized for their every need. From managing a boutique ship, to running a large shipping port, HANA will deliver the right systems to improve operational efficiency and drive productivity. Our HAHA initiative also caters to the needs of the public sector regardless of the industry. In addition, SAP is helping us to develop and put in place predictive technology for infrastructure in order to maximize productivity and response-effectiveness, which is turning out to be a rewarding initiative, especially considering the value of SAP's business intelligence expertise. With HANA we are capable of helping the government to create a digital cabinet or to start modernizing Oman's infrastructure and services such as water distribution systems, traffic lights, fire prevention, and to help predict problems before they happen by leveraging business intelligence provided by SAP. In this regard, the biggest challenge is creating a local cloud network inside Oman. This will allow us to offer HANA in a way that will be able to access all the necessary information nationally, this will not only maximize productivity but also satisfy the question of maintaining information security. Ultimately, we want our customers to be able to focus on their core business and let us take care delivering first class IT and internet services for them.

If a third operator came into the country how would this impact business for Awasr?

We have the third Class-1 license for fixed network businesses and any new mobile operator will have a Class-1 license for mobile network. We are complementary and we in fact anticipate that each company will provide services for the other. Meanwhile however, Awasr intends to launch a MVNO, which is a national mobile operation. Because of the advantage of our existing high-quality customer service and network operation centers, we feel we can offer a higher class of mobile service than exists in the market today. We are not standing still waiting for the third mobile operator, but we are open to working with them when (and if) they enter the Oman market.

What is the current market penetration of Awasr and what are your plans to reach the 2020 Oman vision in terms of numbers?

There are companies that grow on an annual basis but Awasr grows on a daily basis. There is a high demand for our products and services. For the past 10 years demand has been primarily for mobile services, but that market is now saturated. There are 173% more mobile phone lines in than subscribers. However, demand for fast fixed internet services are currently in high demand. Streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify, and Youtube, and gaming platforms like XBOX, PS4 and Steam all require better faster services. These content providers represent the future of entertainment as an industry, and we are the best at delivering the speeds needed to unlock the power and enjoyment of the Internet. Furthermore, we know that technology can be complex for the normal customer. When we entered the market in 2016, there were already a large number of existing products and services which were complicated for customers to choose from. The TRA reported that a major reason people don't buy internet services is because the packages are too difficult to understand. So we decided to create high-quality and simple product offerings. For internet we have only four different products that are specifically targeted to the needs of customers in Muscat.

One of your core values is Agility. What does this mean?

Our agility lies in our ability to adapt to the needs of an ever-changing market and we are constantly improving our delivery response time by focusing on efficiency. Moreover, we are smart in the way we implement our services. For example, we were the first to accept order registration through WhatsApp and to implement an online ordering system. Finally, we are caring in the sense that we focus on consumer loyalty by providing first-class services through our 247 in-house customer service center. We are not a large company, we are more like a family, and we have to be quick to adapt and to change, because we cannot fight the big companies head-on.

What are Awasr's main objectives for 2018?

I can say this with certainty: We have just gotten started. We are going to do amazing things. There are multiple services and innovations that we want to introduce to the market. Our focus in 2018 will be on delivering services to government and large enterprise better faster cheaper, introducing a fully functioning HANA Enterprise Cloud to the market as a means to support the digital transformation of Oman. We see ourselves continuing to be the champion of home and business users in Oman and maintaining our leadership as the fastest provider in Oman. Next year we plan to think bigger and launch a national MVNO, as well as deliver smart entertainment services helping people access their favorite TV and content through our superfast network, we will also launch home and corporate security services, and high-speed connectivity solutions for government and large companies. I see the future as very bright for Awasr. I can't wait.