CUTTING A BROAD SWATHE

Oman 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Said Al-Mandhari, CEO of Oman Broadband Company (OBC), on commercializing fiber-optic infrastructure, building a more connected society, and creating lasting synergies.

Said Al-Mandhari
BIOGRAPHY
Said Al-Mandhari has been CEO of OBC since 2014 after gaining more than 15 years of experience in the ICT sector. Prior to that, he was the General Manager of MDS-Oman for six years, managing more than 150 professionals in the IT & telecommunication sector. Before this, he worked for the government of Oman and was involved in multiple national projects related to e-government initiatives. In addition to his current responsibilities, Al-Mandhari is also an advisor for The Research Council (TRC).

What advantages will a third telecoms operator bring to Oman?

The addition of a third service provider clearly creates a solid foundation for potential long-term cooperation that will benefit not only Oman Broadband, but the economy as a whole. Aside from our fiber-optic network, we are also looking into possibilities of deploying towers, which will create yet another interesting business opportunity. Building the foundation of a connected tomorrow and unlocking the nation's potential has always been one of our core objectives here at OBC.

What business opportunities do you expect in broadband infrastructure for 2017-2018?

We are seeing increased market competition and thus dynamics in both fixed and mobile segments are growing. This alone will create significant growth potential for us as a company. In addition, the commercialization of the existing state-owned fiber-optic infrastructure is progressing well, allowing us to offer a new range of services in the long-haul segment, reach new locations and a larger number of potential clients in the government sector, and strongly support government initiatives. In doing so, we can also further contribute toward transforming Oman's online experience and the establishment of a 'connected' society and boost e-services, the latter of which will soon be accessible across the Sultanate. Security today is becoming increasingly important, and is a segment in which we play an important role as well. Fiber optics are inherently the most secure and safe medium in modern telecoms infrastructure. Along with security measures taken by service providers, services offered by OBC, from a security standpoint, are further proof that the network is all the more attractive and as a result making the switch to fiber.

What is the status of your strategy to cover 85% of Muscat by 2020?

We will reach 55% coverage in Muscat by the end of 2017, in addition to doing rollout outside of the capital into other urban areas. We are progressing exactly according to our masterplan, and the impact of our activities is becoming more evident with every passing day. We have also established strong, mutually beneficial partnerships with service providers and know that Oman's experience can serve as a role model at an international level for how different stakeholders can efficiently and constructively work toward establishing national fiber coverage.

What is the relationship between OBC, ITA, TRA, and the ministries and how can it be improved?

OBC maintains an excellent work relationship with everyone within the telecoms sector and public authorities. Government-owned entities in roads, sewage, electricity, and water have adopted OBC's specifications and coordinated the execution of every project with OBC in order to reap savings. We also have a strategic project with the ITA to provide connectivity to several ministries and link them to the government cloud as part of the e-government project.

What are the benefits of broadband for the business community in Oman?

In 2015, Oman was amongst the most expensive countries in the region in terms of broadband pricing and had low coverage. Since a third fixed broadband service provider entered the market (offering its services exclusively on our infrastructure), we have seen a good drop in retail broadband prices. At the same time, speeds have increased tremendously. Today, packages above 50 and 100Mbps are normal for end users, something unimaginable only two years ago. Such development will change how business is conducted in Oman from the ground up.

What are OBC's main goals and objectives for 2017-2018?

In addition to reaching our 2020 goals, we are always proactively searching for opportunities to build on new technologies. We are hoping to achieve a synergy effect and create competitive advantages that will attract world-renowned partners from the ICT industry.