Muscat: On the glorious celebrations of the 53rd National day, Engineer Sultan bin Ahmed Al Wahaibi, the Chief Executive Officer of Oman Broadband, extends his heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to the esteemed presence of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, praying to Allah Almighty to bestow great goodness upon Oman and upon its loyal people under his leadership.
Oman Broadband Company has achieved significant progress in expanding the fiberoptics network in the governorates of Oman and contributing to local development, besides further progress in other important aspects such as the 99% Omanization, training and qualifying Omani employees through several programs, notably “Tamkeen” (Empowerment) program, Engineer Sultan bin Ahmed AlWahaibi
, CEO of Oman Broadband said in a press interview.
AlWahaibi explained that Oman has achieved significant milestones across various domains since the initiation of the "renewed renaissance," owing to the insightful and wise leadership of His Majesty the Sultan, even in the face of diverse challenges.
The Sultanate of Oman had succeeded in demonstrating to the world its ability to cope with crises and deal with them in efficient ways and by effective means. It had become a modern country, with its positive economic growth, progress in development Indicators and a rise in the credit rating, following sustained efforts to reduce public debt and gradual recovery of the economy, in parallel with achieving the objectives of the "Oman 2040" vision, AlWahaibi illustrated.
Here is the whole interview, as follows.
• As Oman Broadband continues its achievements... What is the current coverage of the fiber optics network in terms of units? Additionally, what are your anticipations for the near future?
We achieved positive statistic in this regard, as the units covered with fiberoptics network of Oman Broadband in all governorates reached 735 thousand units, as of September 2023. The units are divided into 387528 units in Muscat, and 322995 units outside Muscat.
The total number of subscribers is 255886 by the end of September 2023. Over the next three years, Oman Broadband is expected to cover more than 99% of units in Muscat, and about 50% outside Muscat of total units in Oman. I would also like to point out that the company's investments and movable assets have increased to more than OMR 276 million since its establishment in 2014.
Moreover, the company has achieved several positive results, most notable is the total reliance on external funding for project implementation rather than government support.
The company also succeeded in establishing infrastructure used by all licensed telecommunications operators in Oman, along with other initiatives through which it has been keen to support and empower Omani youth through the fulfilment of programs, such as “Tamkeen” (Empowerment).
What are the company’s efforts to enhancesupporting SMEs in parallel with the government policies to leverage this sector?
There is no doubt that government efforts to uplift small and medium enterprises are evident. Therefore, at Oman Broadband Company, and in accordance with a comprehensive strategic vision, we have taken it upon ourselves to empower small and medium enterprises. This is achieved by assigning several projects directly or indirectly to entrepreneurs with expertise in our field. The value of projects directly assigned to small and medium enterprises has reached over OMR 43 million.
Progress is being made in achieving Omanization since the company's inception. What is the current Omanization ratio?
Omanization in the company reached a stunninglevel, amounted to 99%, which means more than 200 Omani employees in all specialties.
Along with Omanization, the company is keen to involve employees in various training programs to convey their expertise to young people wishing to receive training and practical experience. The company's contribution to training and qualification opportunities has reached more than 760 training opportunities, including those offered by the "Tamkeen" program to new graduates and job seekers.
The company continues to encourage employees to participate in “Masar” (Path) program, whichis a specialized program in leadership development, additionally, there are various opportunities accessible for employees, whether within or outside Oman, with the aim of enhancing their skills.
What is the company's role in developing telecommunications services in Oman?
We provide unique services in this sector, which includes providing support to key telecommunications service providers in Oman, as well as operating Oman's largest fiberoptics network, through competent and qualified Omani specialists and a number of contractors and technicians in all governorates. The company also provides all training and enabling requirements to ensure fiberoptics network coverage to the largest possible space in the Country. In this regard, we affirm that the company is committed to further expanding and improving the network's infrastructure, to provide a large-scale and high-speed internet access to populations and to participate in the sustainable growth of the national economy.
The company is gearing up to initiate an Initial Public Offering (IPO). Could you elaborate on the significance of this move and its role in fostering the company's expansion?
The company is willing to start an initial public offering (IPO) in order to increase the company's public property base, providing liquidity for planned expansions requiring further continuous modernization as an element of attracting foreign investment to Oman, as well as offering savings tools to shareholders, which will support the State's plans to promote financial inclusion.
The IPO arrangements are under way, AlWahaibi added, mentioning that as a preliminary step before the IPO, the company have witnessed the acquisition of Oman Infrastructure Investments Fund “Rakiza” on 39% of ITHCA Group shares in Oman Broadband, the government arm in building and developing broadband infrastructure in Oman. Before the end of this year, a partial exit of approximately 10% to 26% will take place, depending on the ability to finalize negotiations with other investors. This will help to enhance the confidence of investors and shareholders further, as well as strengthening the private sector's contribution in Oman Broadband.
Regarding your expansion strategy, what are the key areas where you are currently focusing on?
The company's team continues its efforts towards expanding its network in all governorates, as we aim to reach new areas in the next phase. These areas include: Otab and Al-Sowihira in Suhar, Al-Khashda, Hilat Ar-Rawasheed, Majz As-Soghra, Abo Ad-Doros, Alghowaisa, Sor Ash-Sheyadi, Al-Qashi’ in Saham, plus Al-Amera and Al-Rumais in Barka, and a number of areas in Jalan Bani Bo Ali, and AL-Rusail in Muscat, besides some areas in Duqom, as well as Ad-Dahariz and Al-Haffa in Salalah, and others.
Tell us about the 'Affaq' project for covering rural villages implemented by the Oman Broadband Company?
This initiative came in implementation of the National Broadband Strategy, the implementation of which was entrusted to the Oman Broadband Company, which is one of the companies of ITHCA Group.
Accessing broadband service to remote rural communities to reduce the digital divide is one of the goals that the strategy seeks to achieve at the national, social, and economic levels, in addition to what has been accomplished in building broadband networks using optical fibers.
This initiative includes covering 600 villages distributed across the various governorates of the Sultanate in accordance with the principle of open access, which allows beneficiaries in these villages to choose the service operator from among the licensed operators in the Sultanate of Oman.
How do you work towards strengthening partnerships with governorates to foster local development?
There is no doubt that efforts will continue to enhance various partnerships, and through the company's teamwork, we have successfully activated and developed a partnership model with the governorates to provide broadband infrastructure with the aim of offering and improving internet services and supporting the economic system.
Wide spreading broadband network contributes to increasing the local output due to the efficient acceleration of business and services. This is in addition to broader and faster coverage of high-speed home internet networks, creating job opportunities for the youth in various governorates.
I have high hopes in this partnership model with governorates, and the promising investment opportunities it will create for them, utilizing it to support sectors such as education and health, among other service sectors, which aligns with the national broadband strategy.