Organisations throughout Oman now recognise the enormous value of technology to support productivity, efficiency and innovation. Government efforts to support the local tech sector have also led to many new jobs being created, and industries becoming more competitive in a globalised economy.
At the heart of this global economy is connectivity. As noted by Arthur D Little in one of their latest reports on the digital economy, Oman has already developed a robust ICT infrastructure supporting regional and international connectivity with 14 international submarine cables passing through its territory. Earlier this year, 5G mobile network services also became a reality for consumers in the sultanate, having previously only been offered as fixed wireless access (an alternative to home fibre).
Today, 5G connectivity is accelerating innovation across Oman and the Middle East. It is more important than ever that governments explore the possibilities of improving this infrastructure, and specifically, initiating network evolution to move their countries into the era of 5G.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored this point as demand for network usage and data has increased rapidly for remote working, education, entertainment, healthcare, and more. In one recent study, it was forecast that 5G will enable US$13.2tn of global economic output in 2035.
Oman’s cooperation with international counterparts will help us to capture a bigger share of this global opportunity while realising the ambitions of the Oman Vision 2040. We must be vocal in our support for international cooperation and public-private partnerships.
Unfortunately, the rapid pace of digitisation has led to some growing pains. Escalated tensions in the technology realm by the US against China – where 5G technology was originated – have created serious issues in the industry, including a global shortage of semiconductor chips, which are the lifeline of modern technology and a critical component to 5G networks. This has caused major disruptions to nearly every industry from car manufacturing to TV production.
The pandemic only exacerbated this situation over the last year, with manufacturing temporarily suspended in some instances, while people are relying on computers and work-from-home technology more than ever before.
Such instances have stressed yet again the importance of building strong international relationships and supply chains in the technology field. These must be based on a spirit of open trade, mutual understanding, and unified standards for shared prosperity.
Last year, for example, the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology signed a deal with China’s tech giant Huawei on a new collaborative effort to develop the sultanate’s digital society as well as its technology ecosystem. This private global company having experience in 170 markets worldwide has played a pivotal role in supporting Oman’s move from 3G to 4G and now 5G connectivity. It is now working with local partners to deploy 5G capabilities in areas like the sultanate’s oil and gas, logistics, and transport sectors. Such projects should be continuously encouraged. These public-private partnerships are a great example of collaboration that will lead to the transformation of entire industries, and the future socio-economic growth of the sultanate.
It is essential that we continue to nurture local talents in the 5G arena, enabling bright minds in Oman to develop and lead our connected future. Joint collaboration projects are pivotal in this regard. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is now working with leading companies like Huawei to offer new online training programmes for students and young engineers. These knowledge exchange programmes are powerful means to help Omani talents refine and develop their skills in using 5G technologies for new industrial and social applications.
As the country elevates its infrastructure in line with the Oman Vision 2040, government authorities, telecom service providers, and private global companies must ultimately join forces to catch this wave of 5G potential. With a shared spirit of ambition and determination, there remains huge potential to use 5G to support further prosperity in Oman.