Ross Cormack, CEO of Nawras is delivering the opening day keynote address at the Broadband MEA 2013 conference taking place on the 19th-20th March 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, UAE. Ahead of the conference we speak to him about the challenges facing the Omani operator in the region.
What major developments have there been for the broadband industry in your region over the past year?
In Oman the main development has been the release of spectrum to enhance current mobile broadband services (3G based) and allow for introduction of LTE. Nawras has quickly taken advantage of this new spectrum and is turbocharging its entire mobile network and will launch LTE very soon.
The government has developed a national broadband strategy which will, during the coming years, enhance the ability to increase the reach and speed of broadband to a larger portion of the Omani population and business sector.
To what extent does wifi offload come into your thinking?
Wifi off-load is part of our network strategy to enhance the customer experience and to enable us to monetise data in a more efficient way. It is essential especially in shopping centres and malls where normal coverage is constrained due to the indoor location and volume of content downloads.
Sometimes marketing can be too successful. How do you ensure that you have enough capacity to meet with demand?
As additional spectrum has been awarded, Nawras is conducting a total revamp and modernisation of its mobile network, while at the same time investing in capacity enhanced technologies (LTE). We have also upgraded our transmission to IP and continue to utilise fibre to connect base stations to our core. Our core has been upgraded to the latest technology standard and we have enhanced our international transmission capacity. You should always be ahead of your indicators of network, customer usage and feedback.
Which would you choose? Investing in coverage or investing in increasing speeds to existing customers?
Nawras is investing in both by turbocharging its entire network and also increasing its network footprint to improve customer experience. You have to strike a balance; coverage gives you the reach and customer satisfaction of being connected irrespective of location, while speed is essential in specific areas of heavy usage.
Is FTTH really necessary for businesses and consumers, and what are the stumbling blocks to rolling it out?
Yes, the digital era has just started and there will be continued growth of data-based applications and services. FTTH has to be reviewed from a long term perspective and requires an increased level of co-operation among operators. With the creation of a government-owned National Broadband Company, the Omani market will see a fast development of FTTH based infrastructure. By securing an efficient and economical roll-out of FTTH, the operators can focus their intention and investments to service development and meet customer demand.
Fibre is more essential for business customers due to heavy constant usage. There are plenty of rollout stumbling blocks, but most critical is the right-of-way to lay the fibre in built up areas.
Are there enough services out there to drive adoption of faster speeds, and is it up to the operators to get involved?
There is more than enough speed and capacity in our 3G network to provide exciting customer experiences for the majority of services currently being used on the Internet. Where LTE makes a big difference is in video streaming, music and online/real time gaming. In addition LTE offers new potential for cloud services.
Do you see customer resistance to bandwidth caps, line throttling and traffic management?
The challenge for operators is to ensure that everyone gets the best experience from their data networks. Unfortunately, there are cases where certain applications, services and usage profiles of a small minority, adversely affect the experience of the majority. Traffic management, including bandwidth caps, is a key element to ensuring every customer gets a quality experience. Data throttling harms customer perception of service quality so Nawras is phasing out all plans where this exists.
What are the biggest challenges you expect to be facing over the next 12 months?
We are confident that the investments we are currently undergoing will turbocharge our network. Introducing LTE and increasing our network footprint will rapidly enhance the customer experience. The initiatives taken by the government of Oman during 2012 will enable us to benefit from extra frequency and we have now embarked on our largest investment project ever. As we get our network (both coverage and speed) into shape, we can roll out products that customers want and be much more active in the fixed corporate market. We have a huge focus on our customer experience programme – it’s not simply words!