Nawras: “At present there is a shortage of available spectrum”

Wolfgang Wemhoff, CTO of Nawras (Oman)

Wolfgang Wemhoff, CTO of Omani service provider Nawras, discusses the company’s rollout of new fibre and wireless networks, the extent to which businesses and public bodies are currently utilising the benefits they offer, and laments the current lack of wireless spectrum.

What major developments have there been for the broadband industry in the MEA region this past year?

During 2011, the MEA region witnessed the fast development of mobile broadband based on HSDPA and a similar growth of DSL. Last year also saw the start of LTE rollout for mobile and FTTx for fixed broadband.

In Oman, Nawras had an exciting year with the continued expansion of its 3G+ network as well as the completion of its fibre-optic network and WiMAX rollout designed to serve the company’s growing number of home and corporate broadband customers.

Nawras also launched its first submarine sea cable as part of the Oman to India Tata Global Network-Gulf cable system.

Nawras is currently taking part in an FTTH project which is trialling this super-fast broadband technology in the north of the capital city. Around one hundred customers are currently involved in evaluating this service.

Are broadband networks finally catching up with the technological aspirations of consumers, businesses and public bodies?

It would be interesting to actually reverse the question and ask if the market has actually started to take advantage of the benefits offered by the major investments made by telecom operators in different broadband technologies?

There is a fast take-up of different social media and downloading of content, primarily driven by consumers. However, are businesses and public bodies truly utilising the opportunities for interacting with customers and citizens?

In Oman, the government is working hard to create a digital society, but overall broadband penetration is still comparatively low, so many opportunities remain.

Will consumers ever fill their super-fast broadband pipes?

With telecommunications technology evolving at a rapid rate, the very definition of super-fast seems to change on a regular basis.

What has been described as a thirst for a tsunami of data will continue to drive development, with customers’ appetite for data increasing and technology constantly trying to stay one step ahead of demand.

What technical challenges lie ahead for the broadband industry?

The major challenge I can see for telecom providers is being able to get sufficient wireless spectrum to meet increasing demand from customers. At present there is a shortage of available spectrum, but we understand the Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA) is actively working to rectify this situation in Oman.

In addition, customers will be expecting to move seamlessly from one device to another wherever they may be.

Operators, manufacturers and regulators will need to work together to use today’s incredible connectivity to deliver convergence, which will in turn enhance the customer experience and foster future innovation.

How can network operators best monetise their investments in super-fast broadband networks?

For a network operator to best recoup investment in super-fast broadband networks, a fair fee needs to be charged.

The challenge is to meet the increased demand for data with a great service for as many customers as possible, while transferring data at the lowest cost in order to develop revenue growth at cost-efficient levels. An interesting alternative would be to charge OTT providers an interconnect fee.

How can telecoms regulators further support the MEA region’s burgeoning broadband business?

The most crucial role that telecoms regulators could undertake would be to provide spectrum.

The provision of this spectrum will enable increased speeds and more sophisticated services, as well as accommodate anticipated data usage moving forward. As mentioned earlier, we understand that the TRA is actively addressing this issue.

It will also be necessary for regulatory frameworks to adapt to allow convergence trends to develop.

Wolfgang will be speaking at the Broadband World Forum MEA 2012 event, taking place in Dubai on 25-27 March, 2012. For more information and to register, please click here

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