LOOKING AHEAD

Oman 2020 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

Omantel's focus on 5G now and in the coming years will ensure Oman is ready for the “smart" future.

Talal Al Mamari
BIOGRAPHY

Talal Al Mamari has been the CEO of Omantel since 2014. He has 24 years of experience at Omantel. Prior to being CEO, he was its CFO. He sits on the board of directors of several companies, including Zain Group, Oman Corporate Governance & Sustainability Centre, and Al Amal Fund. He has a degree in business administration from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh.

What will be the major impact of 5G on Omani society in the short and medium terms?
5G will shape entire industries going forward. For us, 5G is an opportunity to connect areas that were previously challenging to reach and requiring a long time-to-market. With 5G, we are targeting those cases by offering new solutions and services that serve customers' needs. In the short term, 5G is an alternative to traditional broadband technologies. As technology and the demand for technology is progressing at a solid pace, fixed wireless access is the main focus of current deployment. On the medium and long term, the increasing demand for highly customized products, as well as flexible production lines, will trigger the Fourth Industrial Revolution where 5G will play a major role in offering the main infrastructure that will pave the way toward the revolution's implementation.

What are the market realities in terms of demand for services, and what strategic decisions will ensure Omantel is positioned for medium and long-term growth?
At Omantel, we look at demand differently. The consumer demand segment is one of the largest revenue contributors, accounting for around 58% of our revenue, so we continue exploring data and lifestyle solutions like mobile and entertainment bundles. However, with the entrance of a third operator, it is important to diversify. In the last four years, we focused on developing the ICT business unit, providing various solutions to both government and the private sector. We have also expanded our wholesale global business, with much of our focus is on our Global Wholesale Transformation project that has further enabled us to transform from a regional hub to a global provider. We have investments in more than 20 subsea cables that serve areas covering more than 5 billion of the world's population. The main OTT content providers are hosted here in Oman and serve the GCC and other MENA markets. Additionally, in 2020, we are opening one of the most unique data centers in the region, which should attract many content providers as well as cloud operators into the country.

How will the whole ICT landscape evolve in the long term, and what regulatory focus should be placed to ensure its evolution will be innovation-based?
Any long-term prediction in the ICT industry is hard to imagine, given today's extreme acceleration of change. Nonetheless, we predict that there will be a steep and steady curve toward opportunities arising from digital initiatives, cloud computing and security services, unified communication solutions, big data and analytics, IoT, and the rise in 5G technology. The traditional telecom business model will no longer be infrastructure-based, with the service layer bound to determine the survival of the entire industry. The rollout of 5G will no longer rely on huge base station towers, but will require every aspect of available infrastructure, from streetlights to other devices available around a city. Hence, infrastructure will become lighter, and the focus will shift to solutions. Digital disruption by innovators and startups will continue at a steady pace whilst giving rise to digital transformation initiatives to many enterprises across every major industry vertical. This will lead to tremendous growth in connected objects, giving way to an increase in ICT spending. The emergence of new digital technologies is expected to bring significant growth opportunities to the ICT business unit. All these aspects, however, will only be possible as long as there is a strong, deep regulatory understanding of the ICT and telecom environment. Oman should offer a clear sandbox to play in whilst allowing development and innovation. For example, currently there are stringent rules and regulations when it comes to data and the use of data for traditional telecom players. If we are to enrich lives and provide lifestyle services, it will be of the utmost importance that regulations are aligned with the evolution of the industry. There should be a fair level of regulation when it comes to both traditional operators and OTTs.