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Omantel holds the distinction of being the first telecommunications company in Oman and serves as the primary provider of internet services in the country. During MWC 2024, Telecom Review had the privilege of interviewing CEO of Omantel, Talal Said Al Mamari. In this exclusive interview, Al Mamari discussed Omantel's collaborative approach to addressing the digital needs of its target market, delving into the opportunities and challenges faced by the company. Additionally, he highlighted Omantel's unwavering commitment to its customers and the broader community.

How does Omantel’s strategic and collaborative approach successfully address the digital needs of its target markets? Can you highlight notable examples from 2023?

Influenced by the transforming telecom industry, Omantel is driven by two key pillars. The first involves building and investing in a shift-gear ecosystem within Omantel and our subsidiaries, with the objective of achieving sustainable growth.

As part of our digital transformation journey, Omantel has been incorporating new technologies across its extensive range of product portfolios, with substantial investments in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cloud services and IoT. Additionally, we have partnered with Equinix to target markets and segments outside of Oman.

The second pillar stems from a strong motivation to expedite digitalization, utilizing state-of-the-art technologies. In line with this, we have forged a strategic partnership with AWS to create a ‘Consumer’ and ‘Enterprise’ marketplace and enhance e-commerce in Oman. Additionally, we recently launched our national cloud in collaboration with Huawei. Both initiatives are particularly relevant for specific segments within the B2B space.

On the international scene, Omantel's key strength lies in its significant investments in over 20 global subsea cable systems, which extend its reach to more than 120 cities worldwide. The recent establishment of a new joint venture with Zain, named Zain Omantel International (ZOI), marks a strategic move. ZOI now oversees all international wholesale needs for Zain and Omantel operations across eight countries, catering to over 55 million customers. This partnership is poised to revolutionize the telecommunications wholesale industry by offering a wide portfolio of services and solutions designed to accommodate the growing demands of today's digital world.

As the industry evolves further in 2024, what are the crucial factors influencing the delivery of optimal communication experiences? How does Omantel align with these commitments?

Our operations are centered around providing valuable experience, driving our continuous journey of improvement and transformation. In the consumer segment, our focus extends beyond investing in network quality to encompass the enhancement of the entire customer journey. This involves diligent refinement of our internal processes, adopting a customer-centric approach and prioritizing care initiatives.

In the B2B realm, we have established dedicated teams to cater to diverse market segments. Given the dynamic nature of this domain, we are actively leveraging AI to enhance customer satisfaction and experience, particularly in the personalized service sector. Omantel actively collaborates with vertical industries and partners to drive the digital transformation of the industry. This commitment is evident in our successful collaboration with Hutchison Ports Sohar and Huawei, resulting in the launch of the first 5G smart port in the Sultanate of Oman.

We are committed to investing in technology and nurturing talent development to maintain leadership in a dynamic industry. We take pride in our proactive approach to anticipating customer needs and optimizing customer journeys across various segments and industries.

How will Omantel navigate opportunities and challenges posed by disruptive technologies to ensure that it remains resilient, efficient and secure?

We view the challenges posed by disruptive technologies as tailwinds propelling us toward promising opportunities. To seize these opportunities, we acknowledge the importance culture plays in our adaptability. Culture encourages us to change within our industry and the dynamic landscape of technology.

Given the disruptive nature of technologies such as AI, it’s imperative that we embrace both the opportunities and challenges it presents. At Omantel, we are proactively fostering a culture of ‘openness to change.’ This entails collective efforts within teams to embrace change—and to facilitate this cultural transformation, we have implemented various change management programs throughout the organization. Additionally, to prepare our workforce for these changes, we have initiated programs focused on upskilling our talent pool, essentially equipping them with the necessary tools and knowledge. Moreover, as we welcome Generation Z into our workforce, we are revitalizing our organization to align with the expectations and preferences of the newest generation of consumers, thus fostering an environment that embraces innovation and forward-thinking creativity.

An important aspect is to ensure our proximity to emerging and disruptive technologies and recognize that data security is crucial to the success of addressing challenges. Therefore, we have established strategic partnerships with leading global companies. This ensures that we stay ahead of the game, prioritizing the best for our customers and the security of our networks.

Our continuous partnership with Google, a global tech giant, empowers us to competently achieve our goals. Together, we have embarked on groundbreaking initiatives, including implementing artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) within prediction models, network optimization, and the API monetization project (which aims to serve enterprise businesses).

Security has always been a core element at Omantel, from spearheading digital innovations to elevating customer experiences. Pioneering the adoption of ISO 27701 privacy principles in Oman, we've heavily invested in expanding our cyber footprint, nurturing cyber talent, and simplifying processes to tackle any cybersecurity challenge. Our 24/7 manned ‘Cyber-Defense’ center continuously monitors ongoing threats. Our ongoing collaboration with Google also focuses on cloud security and leveraging AI and ML technologies to enhance our security capabilities.

Over the last decade, Omantel has collaborated extensively with international telecom security bodies like GSMA, ETSI, and FASG. Our expertise has played a key role in shaping global discussions and initiatives around crucial areas like signaling security, interconnectivity, and 5G security. Active participation in the GSMA Network Equipment Security Assurance Scheme (NESAS) and contribution to the development of the 5G Cyber Knowledge Base (CKB) and 5G Security Manual showcase our commitment to future-proofing mobile networks.

Being recognized as an ambassador by GSMA/FASG is a testament to our commitment. Hosting FASG meetings in 2019 and 2024 demonstrates our leadership in fostering the collaboration and awareness of critical security matters.

Following the FASG meeting in Oman recently, Omantel and the GSMA’s FASG are in the process of establishing the ‘Middle East Regional Fraud and Security Group.’ This initiative addresses a notable gap in our regional landscape, aiming to enhance mobile network security through education and intelligence sharing. The Middle East FASG will provide a dynamic platform for industry leaders to collaborate, assess threats, share intelligence, and promote best practices, supported by the GSMA's global experts.

What direction is Omantel taking in 2024, in accordance with the company's vision for 2030?

Our vision extends beyond traditional telco roles. Omantel is evolving into a technology company, engaging in global diversification ventures. In 2024, Omantel will align its focus with the company's vision for 2030. A key area of emphasis during this year will be laying the foundation for AI and building the AI ecosystem. As AI spearheads tech trends, we firmly believe that it will necessitate changes not only in how we conduct business but also within our overall business model.

This journey begins with establishing a strong foundation, starting with talent development within Omantel. We prioritize the upskilling of our existing talent pool and acquire new talent with the expertise necessary to leverage emerging technologies effectively. By investing in our workforce and fostering a culture of innovation, we aim to position Omantel as a leader in the AI landscape and drive sustainable growth in line with our long-term vision.

Additionally, another groundbreaking move is our venture into the space industry through a historic partnership with Etlaq. Holding a 25% stake in a rocket launch project, we aim to harness space-enabled technologies for innovative solutions, like using satellite data for customized offerings. Collaborations in areas like oil spill detection showcase our commitment to technology for societal and environmental good.

In essence, our ‘Shift Gear’ strategy not only aligns us with customer needs but positions Omantel as a dynamic player in the evolving tech landscape, ready to shape a sustainable future.

Omantel, the pioneering telecommunications company in Oman, continues to lead in providing internet services and addressing digital needs. With a strategic focus on building ecosystems, fostering partnerships, and embracing disruptive technologies like AI, Omantel remains resilient and efficient. Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, Omantel is dedicated to laying the foundation for AI and aligning its efforts with the company's vision for 2030, ensuring continued innovation and growth in the telecommunications landscape.

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