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Alla Goldner, Director, Technology, Strategy & Standardization at Amdocs

Inside Telecom Staff

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Alla Goldner - InsideTelecom

Amdocs is an international company founded in 1982 that specializes in software and services for communications, media and financial services providers and digital enterprises. The company helps service providers, communications agencies and financial service providers with modernizing solutions that involve digitization and automating systems and services in many industries. 

Mrs. Alla Goldner, Director, Technology, Strategy & Standardization at Amdocs, discusses the company’s strategic direction, the future of 5G and building a better connected world.

What are some of Amdocs’ most notable achievements?

Our company’s purpose is to enrich lives and progress society and help build a better connected world using creativity and technology. Over the years, we have partnered with the leading players in the communications and media industry, enabling next-generation experiences in 80 plus countries through hundreds of transformation projects. We have helped service providers better meet the evolving needs of their customers as they drive growth and transform and take their business to the cloud. In the network domain for example, Amdocs has helped communications service providers open their networks to their full potential by providing software and services in the areas of network engineering and rollout, hybrid network management and automation, cloud/virtual network expansion and autonomous operations for LTE, 5G, fiber, cable, satellite and more. These are all notable achievements that we are very proud of.

You are recognized as a female pioneer in the world of telecoms. Can you tell us how you came to achieve this role? What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced?

I have always worked in the most innovative areas of telecommunications, with some of the recent examples being 5G, NFV/SDN, and cloud-native networks. I always strive to see the bigger picture, which not only includes a combination of the key aspects of the most advanced technologies, but also the relevant definitions and implementations, the impacted standards, evolving open source communities, and the vendor implementations.

I also participate in and manage several industry-body initiatives and activities. Some of my ongoing duties are ONAP requirements subcommittee chair and TIP OCN Orchestration stream co-lead. These roles really help me to see the broader technology evolution picture as an insider.

Some of the biggest challenges, but also an opportunity at the same time, is keeping pace with the continuously changing technologies and ecosystem in the world of communications networks, and the need to stay up to date with accurate and relevant technical and business information all the time.

As a female in this industry, I do my best to encourage young female engineers, inside and outside of Amdocs, to be proactive, to plan their career, and to not be afraid of failing while innovating.

Amdocs has launched a special section related to COVID-19 on their website. Can you share some insights from this section?

The post COVID-19 world is one in which service consumption and network traffic patterns will be much more dynamic than before. There are all kinds of new challenges service providers are facing, such as, how to better optimize and build their networks, how to engage more effectively with customers through digital mediums, how to automate operations with less manual intervention, how to tailor and launch new types of service plans, and more. So, this section highlights some of the solutions that we can deliver to communications service providers to address these new challenges.

What are your thoughts regarding 5G deployment? What are the benefits and risks associated with the technology?

5G technology brings to service providers the opportunity to implement new use cases and deliver new services, including for the enterprise segment, ones that require very high bandwidth and extremely low latency, something which could not be achieved with the previous technology generation. It is important to mention that 5G also brings a new disruptive mix of standardization, open source and industry innovation communities and projects to telecom, such as ORAN, ONAP, and several new TIP projects (OCN being one of them). The challenge is to define where open source ends and where vendor implementation starts, and specifically, what vendors should do differently in this new changing environment, and how to maintain their own strengths and competitive advantages. One may look at these disruptions as an advantage, whereas others may see this as a risk. This is the reality though, and those who will be able to successfully adapt to these new patterns and build their products seamlessly on top of open systems and open source platforms will succeed, in my view.

What role do you think the pandemic will play on the telecom industry?

It may postpone some 5G deployment plans in the short-term, but I believe it will expedite things in the long-term (well, I hope pandemic will not last long!). The reason for that is the highlighted and fast-growing need for high-quality applications we are using from everywhere (and not only from the office or home) and the increased need to automate to reduce manual operations, which eventually requires very high levels of system assurance, including AI/ML, and excellent bandwidth and latency characteristics, which only 5G can deliver. 

Amdocs has partnered with some of the biggest names in the industry. What are some tactics you deploy to attract and maintain high-quality partners?

The communications industry is undergoing significant disruption in many areas, but one area that I will focus on is around the transition to open cloud networks. Here, a larger and more diverse ecosystem is starting to participate in providing solutions. We are successful in partnering with some of the biggest names in the industry, such as cloud-scales like Google, Amazon and Microsoft, because we bring not only advanced, complementary solutions like service and network automation platforms into the mix, but because we are also uniquely positioned as one of the most capable and experienced systems integrator in the communications domain. One that can pull together and integrate all the pieces to help communications service providers on their network transformation journeys to the cloud.

 What are some of the biggest trends currently in the telecom world? Are you doing anything to stay ahead of these trends?

The biggest trends I would identify are ‘softwarization’ and virtualization of the telecom networks and the move to the cloud. Virtualization is turning into a push for ‘cloud-nativeness’, with major activity by cloud providers such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and others. These companies are also starting to take share in traditional areas of the telecom world, especially for different types of edge deployments. Additionally, another significant trend is openness and creation of Open APIs among different network layers and components, defined by standards organizations such as ORAN, 3GPP, TMF, MEF, along with open source for the components themselves (ORAN-OCS, ONAP, Akraino, CCNT, TIP OCN are some examples of the relevant communities). And 5G, which is well on its way to being deployed across the globe, would be the first, hopefully successful, combination of all these mentioned trends. We are in lockstep, and in some cases staying ahead, with these trends, being closely and deeply engaged in leading the work done by some of these organizations. As an example, our leadership position in ONAP and in TIP OCN, right from the launch of these initiatives.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you have come across while in the telecom industry? How did you overcome these challenges?

For some years, it has been a world led by only a few big network vendors, such as Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, which made it very difficult, almost impossible, to bring any significant advances in standardization and reduction of lock-in through products built by other companies. The way to overcome this impasse is to get significant service provider support towards addressing this challenge jointly with standards bodies and new product entrants. By the way, this is something that I successfully did while working for my previous company, Allot, through introducing TDF (Traffic Detection Function), UPCON (User Plane Congestion) and several additional concepts into 3GPP standards. The landscape is becoming much more distributed and diverse, with all the trends I mentioned before, and therefore, I would guess the disruption may be easier to achieve now. Still, I would say, the major rule to overcome such challenges is to understand what the customer really wants and “recruit” them to support you.

From your experience, what is one lesson you think people should know at an early age?

Don’t be afraid to fail. One must try. In the worst case, a person will always have enough time to take a different path and will become more experienced through the failure. Young people – belief in your forces and ability to succeed is 50 percent of success, at least. And if you believe in yourself, and if have the confidence to take on challenges, others will also believe in you.

What advice would you give fellow women in the telecom industry?

With the introduction of work in the telecoms world largely done by the open source communities and by industry collaboration communities, the need in human interaction skills becomes more and more important. This is where women can show their strengths – a combination of technical and human skills – IQ plus EQ, and this is what I would recommend fellow women to focus on to help them along their career path in the telecom industry.

In IoT, beyond the smartphone, door opener and coffee maker alarms, what application of IoT do you see really making an impact in the future?

Smart city is one of the major IoT applications which found its way into reality and will only expand. Smart factory is another significant example of successful ongoing adoption. The health industry, especially considering the ongoing Covid-19 situation, will become more and more digitalized with IoT devices to play the key roles of measuring and transforming the information within the system, so less human interaction and human resources are needed. And, the advent of 5G networks will only accelerate the deployment of more and more interesting IoT-based services.

Amdocs completes 1.7 billion customer journeys per day. What are the most common types of journeys completed?

Just to be clear, this refers to the journeys of end-users, that is end customers of the service providers that we serve. Examples of journeys we directly impact and complete include things like, an end-user utilizing an Amdocs developed digital portal to purchase a new offering or viewing and paying their bill. Another example of a journey is one where a user is consuming a service that includes the steps of authentication, authorization, access, policy control and charging, all again going through Amdocs systems. All kinds of communication and media consumption activities by consumers and enterprise users go through and directly touch Amdocs provided systems and solutions. We are in the critical path of supporting all these customer journeys.

What are some niche-market solutions that you have been able to work on?

I would not necessarily call these ‘niche’ as they will accelerate towards becoming mainstream in a few years. But given the spirit of your question, two emerging areas that we are deeply involved in is providing service and solutions as part of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and the ORAN Alliance initiatives, which I mentioned before already. TIP was founded by Facebook some years back, and both TIP and ORAN Alliance are focused on driving the realization of a vibrant open ecosystem of network solutions and integration services providers to help accelerate innovation, increase efficiencies, eliminate vendor lock-in and give service providers a wider choice of technologies and suppliers to help them transform and build the networks of the future such as 5G.

Can you envisage a completely cashless society or something close? What are the benefits?

I do believe it will happen at some point in time, as a fully digitalized community doesn’t need cash-based transactions and, in fact, there are some countries already, where cashless transactions are the norm. There are benefits in leveraging the same single platform people use for their bank transactions, for their shopping experience and for their personal expenses. However, there are different countries with different levels of digitalization at this time, therefore, the process will be gradual and will take a while.

Tell us more about the ‘good deeds’ solution. How does donating 700,000 GB help those in need?

I am assuming you are referring to the ‘good deeds’ solutions from service providers. I think this a great initiative the industry is taking to help users stay connected during these challenging economic times. The data donations service providers are making, is helping consumers worldwide stay connected during this pandemic, and this is somewhat akin to how food banks are keeping people fed during this challenging time. Of course, it’s not at the same level of urgent need, but it’s not that far off either. Connectivity is not a luxury, but a necessity in the world we live in today.

Besides speed, what is the importance of 5G for the world?

Realizing applications and services which require not only high speed, or in another words, bandwidth, but also low latency and along with several additional characteristics that only 5G can fulfill. This is on the technology side. But one major thing we sometimes forget about is enabling new monetization strategies to make it worthwhile to deploy, both for the carriers, and for the users.

How can some of your solutions help with business disruptions?

I will bring one example of what we are actively promoting in the standardization communities as well as in the industry in general. As you know, network slicing is a major 5G functionality, which allows to have separated virtual 5G networks, residing on the same physical infrastructure and using the same network functions. As I mentioned, one key thing for 5G to succeed is the ability to monetize it. A new charging method which can be useful for engagement of carriers with enterprises, is network slicing charging, where charge is not per mobile sessions of a subscriber, but by the consumption of a slice. We strongly believe this opens many opportunities for a new level of engagement and profitable monetization models, and thus, we include it as a part of our Network Slice Manager solution working along with our BSS system to drive innovation in this area.

We’re a diverse group of industry professionals from all corners of the world. Our desire is to provide a high-quality telecoms publication that caters to an international market, offering the latest and most relevant telecoms information to businesses, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

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Roya Ghafele, Executive Director of Oxfirst

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Roya Ghafele, Executive Director of Oxfirst

The Supreme Court has held that the English courts do have jurisdiction to determine the FRAND terms of a global license to standard essential patents (SEPs).

Tell us more about Standard Essential Patents. What does this ruling mean for SEP holders?

The Supreme Court of England and Wales and lower Courts before, have done their best to issue a multifaceted and rich judgment. But there may be a couple of issues with this judgment. For me, this judgment once more emphasizes the need to come to grips with the novel market dynamics presented by international economic integration. The borderless world is a business reality, but the law has yet to catch up with it.

The standards, which this ruling addresses, are core to the telecom industry. 3G, 4G/LTE but also WiFi (which this judgment does not address) have paved the way for real time interaction across the globe. Where the further evolution of such standards will take us, remains yet to be seen. For sure, 5G will be instrumental for next generation technologies such as the Internet of Things.

Patents that read on standards, also called standard essential patents, are subject to the FRAND commitment. This is because they can be prone to anticompetitive behavior. FRAND stands for ‘fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.’ In the case at hand, the IPR policy of ETSI, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute played an important role. This policy seeks to set out how patents that read on ETSI standards are to be treated.

In this case, the Court adequately recognized the commercial tensions that prevail in this sector. As such, the Court argued that FRAND is a balancing mechanism. On the one hand side adequate access to standards need to be assured, on the other hand side patented inventions should also be incentivized. Royalty stacking was also recognized as a key aspect of FRAND. Royalty stacking can be described as the risk of a cumulative royalty payment a downstream innovator may be faced with. This is explained by the fact that there are many different patent owners who claim their stake on a standard.

I tend to think that the ruling will attract litigation into the U.K. This will be good news for the local litigation industry, but may have adverse effects on the larger economy. In the difficult times we currently face, the UK needs to assure it does its best for its consumers, its start-ups and scale ups, SMEs and local industry. The UK also cannot neglect its international trade position.

What are the repercussions for the licensing of intellectual property in the telecoms sector?

This sector has experienced a lot of litigation over standard essential patents. The press has labelled these disputes as ‘patent wars.’ For both the licensor and the licensee, the commercial stakes are significant. After all, these standards formed the baseline of a novel way of doing business around the world. It comes hence as no surprise that Court awarded damages have been significant.

How will this jurisdiction affect consumers?

Consumers in the UK may be faced with less choice. This is because technology companies may be carefully considering whether to expose their global licensing requirements to the scrutiny of the UK. 

What would have been the implications if the decision went the other way?

The decision rightly points to a host of unresolved issues. It points out how highly complex today’s international business relations are. Had the British Courts decided that they can only issue a national licensing rate, existing market practice of pursuing legal disputes in a couple of key jurisdictions would have continued.

How will the decision impact implementors?

Downstream innovators need to be able to adequately access standards. Patents should not be an obstacle. The decision shifts the burden of proof and this is very expensive. Also, the decision sanctions a global FRAND licensing rate with an injunction in the U.K. Downstream innovators may carefully weigh risks and benefits against each other.

How will the ruling help turn the UK into a global hub for patent litigation?

That the UK is in a position to issue global FRAND rates, is an important value proposition for a patentee. It appears that this will now not be necessary as the UK is in a position to issue global FRAND rates. If and to what extent other countries will accept this remains to be seen.

Do you think technology companies will be prompted to reconsider their market position in the U.K?

This may be a possibility.  In TQ Delta vs Zyxel, the defendant declared it would rather accept an injunction and exit the UK market than accept a global FRAND rate set by the English Court. (See: TQ Delta vs Zyxel. Case No: HP-2017-000045. http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2019/562.html, Skeleton Argument on behalf of Zyxel. Claim Numbers: HP-2017-000045 and HP-2019-000009, p. 11 as well as hearing on April 17 2019, p. 97-99 and hearing on March 18, p. 51- 52)

How will this affect negotiations over Brexit?

There are 25 European countries that are trying to set up a Common Court for cross border patent enforcement, called the UPC (Unified Patent Court). The UK left UPC in July 2020. If and to what extent the UK will need to find its own governance structures once it has rejected the acquis communautaire remains to be seen.  I foresee here a potential for conflict. I await with interest the further evolution on this topic.

Do you see more FRAND litigation on the horizon? 

I do not expect this sector to come to peace any time soon. The commercial stakes are important and the sector is traditionally very litigious. Unless the underlying business SEPs protect diminishes significantly, I see no end in sight to the disputes over standard essential patents.

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Ahmed Bader, Insyab Co-Founder and Managing Director

Karim Hussami

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Ahmed Bader, Insyab Co-Founder and Managing Director

Insyab was launched in Dubai, UAE in 2016 and is currently operating out of the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) Research Park, KSA with a presence in Houston, Texas, USA.
The company’s mission is to offer connectivity and mobility management solutions to unleash the power of collaboration in robotic systems. The company places strong emphasis on continued Research & Development and customer satisfaction.

Tell us about the journey of your company, from its inception to the present day?

It started as a casual conversation back in early 2013. I was telling my friend and PhD co-supervisor, Prof. Slim Alouini of an idea that I had. There was a spark, and we saw an opportunity ahead. The technology was not ripe enough though. So we spent the next 2-3 years working on maturing the technology and experimenting with it using some initial funding we received from KAUST, the university which embraced our vision. It was not until late 2015 when we had something to showcase to a potential customer who happened to fly all the way from Houston, Texas to attend a field demo. Soon after, we incorporated the company which we named “Insyab” and had our first paying customer in early 2016.
This first customer happened to hail from the oil & gas upstream industry. So naturally, we spent the years to follow deepening our knowledge and widening our know-how in this domain.
Today, we offer a range of connectivity, mobility management, and analytics solutions to the O&G industry. We have also worked hard over the past 18 months to diversify into other verticals especially given the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis. Capitalizing on many of the tools we used for O&G, we are now venturing into the precision agriculture and last-mile transportation domains.

Why is automation such an important tool across industries?

Automation is seen as a tool to enhance efficiency and productivity across various industries. Repetitive low-skilled tasks are better off and safer to be done by robotic agents. This is particularly true when automating field operations.
For example, in a typical geo-exploration operation, tens of thousands of sensors are deployed in what are often considered to be harsh environments (e.g. arid deserts, frozen snowy terrains, or foothills). In fact, these sensors need to be repeatedly picked up and laid down somewhere else over the span of months or even years. Indeed, unmanned aerial/ground vehicles, i.e. drones, are well-positioned to handle such tasks. In other words, drones are used to automate the sensor deployment and retrieval operation.
Another good example of automation and an early adopter of robotics is the logistics industry. I remember back in 2012, it was just thrilling to see Amazon acquiring Kiva Systems for nearly USD 800M. Kiva was among the first companies to develop a warehouse servicing robotics solution.

How can multiple agents (e.g. drones, crawlers, or rovers) cooperate and get the job done faster?

That is a very good question. Obviously, having multiple robotic agents taking a stab at a certain job will slash the time needed to finish it, right? In fact, the message we often preach here is that 1+1=3! It can be demonstrated that when robots work in collaboration, they’re often able to do better. For instance, going back to the geo-exploration example, we’ve shown that 4 drones can deploy sensors in substantially less than a quarter of the time taken by a single drone. This can be done by virtue of load balancing and adaptive mission control in the face of unpredictable events in the field.

Do wireless solutions facilitate automation?

If we want to have drones and robots collaborate we need to allow them to talk to each other, right? So wireless communications kicks in as a valuable enabling tool. It may even be the case sometimes that over-the-counter wireless technology is not very well suited. Using the example of geo-exploration again, cellular services are not ubiquitously available in areas where systems are to be deployed. Furthermore, the amount of bandwidth and the ultra-low level latency sought after in these applications make it appealing to develop a proprietary solution. This is what we have exactly done for this market.
In fact, we have come across another good example where the development of custom-made wireless technology was needed. One of the biggest online retailers in the UK, Ocado, wanted to build a fully automated warehouse fulfillment center. This involved the use of automated conveyor belts and robotic agents. They quickly realized the need for highly robust high-bandwidth, low-latency wireless connectivity, and ended up co-developing a customized  solution. 

How has automation helped in context to the current pandemic?

While it is still early to offer a quantified response to that, it is pretty obvious how fast factories and warehouses and even farmlands are ramping up the use of robotics and automations in their operations. This is seen as a tool to minimize the impact of disruptions caused by lock-downs or mobility restrictions.
Automation is therefore on a fast-track trajectory to be more deeply embraced and this is clearly fueled by COVID-related concerns. Most importantly, the increased use of robotics and automation on the factory or warehouse floor reduces the likelihood of workers coming into close proximity to each other and hence minimizes hopefully the chances of contagion.

Is Insyab’s solution of real-time wireless connectivity between all components of multi-agent systems more efficient than using cellular infrastructure?

Well, it always depends on the use case. For many industrial automation applications, the cellular infrastructure can take care of the need. However, as mentioned earlier, there are specific use cases in the security, public safety, and energy sectors where the cellular service is not up to speed. This is less likely to be the case as 5G cellular services start to be rolled out. We’re actually quite excited at the prospects of 5G. The recently ratified 3GPP Release 16 and the prospective Release 17 incorporate provisions for robotization and automation. Some of the technology we’ve developed at Insyab looks quite relevant there, and we trust that we’ll start to have some traction with 5G technology developers.

Other than Insyab’s AirFabric™ wireless solution, what other products and solutions have Insyab developed?

Yes indeed, AirFabric™ is the core wireless connectivity solution that enables robotic agents to communicate with each other seamlessly. But wireless in itself is just an enabler. The key is to plan the collective motion paths of robots such that the underlying mission is executed as efficiently and as timely as possible. So last year, we released an early version of a path planning software module. Given our successful track record in the geo-exploration market, the first trial is expected to take place 4Q2020.
At a different end of the spectrum, and in effort to step up the value proposition, we also started complementing our offering with data analytics and computer vision components. This is primarily provisioned through partnerships with other startups that we work closely with.

How has the current pandemic affected your business? Have these challenges inspired new ideas to cope with the changes?

As you may expect, it had some painful effects on the flow of the business. That was especially true given the meltdown in the oil market back in April 2020. We immediately started to see budget cuts and PO cancellations. Anyway, I think we’ve been able to weather the storm but unfortunately at the expense of reducing our investment in R&D for the time being. We’re also virtualizing our workspace and business routines as much as possible with the hope of picking up pace again when the dust settles.

What has been your most successful mission supported by AirFabric™?

Indeed, the area where we had greatest success is the O&G upstream sector. We’ve also had some good interactions within the security market, where the requirement entailed offering wide-area 24/7 surveillance of strategic infrastructure such as pipelines and critical industrial facilities.

Talk us through the teams’ developmental process when creating these solutions?

Our team members are undoubtedly our best assets. My personal philosophy is to strive to make our team players feel that they actually “own” the project. We’re a small team, so we still enjoy the privilege of discussing our projects collectively and in-depth. When people feel empowered they automatically develop a sense of ownership. You don’t have to worry then about tasks being completed on time and with quality.

We know that many countries ban drones or other forms of aircraft. Do you have any legal licenses in place for this process of development?

It is not us, but rather our customers who would be managing the unmanned assets. So we don’t really fly or steer unmanned vehicles ourselves. Nonetheless, the regulatory framework does have an effect on the overall business potential.
Nonetheless, if you’re asking about the testing we do before shipping a product, then I must say that we’ve been fortunate enough to have an office at the KAUST Research Park, where flying drones for research and development purposes is rather a convenient task.

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Ian Dench, CEO of Ooredoo Oman

Inside Telecom Staff

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Ian Dench, CEO of Ooredoo Oman

Telecom companies have played an integral role in keeping individuals/societies connected and informed amid COVID-19.

What were the technical and operational challenges faced by Ooredoo during the pandemic, and what solutions have provided people with reliable connectivity the most?

Our priority from the outset was threefold. First and foremost, the safety of our staff and within just a matter of days we moved everyone to working from home. Secondly, keeping our customers connected, ensuring network availability and fast internet connectivity for consumers and businesses – particularly as they too transitioned to working from home, being responsive to their urgent and immediate requests. Thirdly, supporting the government and authorities of Oman in whatever way needed or required, in particular the Health and Education Ministries, the Emergency Services and other institutions.

Almost overnight, people moved the majority of their work, studies, and lives to their homes, and there has been a much bigger reliance on the internet to keep people connected. Our ongoing heavy investment in our network meant that it was well equipped to cater to the increased data demands that this situation brought. 

Our digital transformation efforts have also paid off. We had to shut all of our stores overnight and our contact centre staff had to work from home, which naturally produced some challenges. However, we were able to keep all services fully operational with access to our contact centre, our app, eShop, and other digital channels.

What operational/organizational changes were implemented by Ooredoo during the pandemic? Are there any emerging trends in telecom that you may want to adopt as a service and/or utilize for corporate purposes? (I.e. remote employment, telehealth, AI systems etc.,)

Through our award-winning app, customers are able to pay bills, top up, subscribe to plans, seek help and much more and over the course of the lockdown, we added numerous new digital services, such as being able to update ID through the app, ordering home internet and even raising and tracking trouble tickets/complaints. Communication through social media also increased significantly, in particular, WhatsApp, where our customers can place orders and raise queries. We’ve also added multiple languages to WhatsApp to make it easier for more of our customers to contact us.

Our eShop has evolved significantly over this recent period, providing (in Arabic and English) multiple services with home delivery anywhere in the Sultanate.

We also upgraded services available to business customers through our dedicated B2B digital channels and business customers could stay in contact with their account managers.

Even though we have now re-opened our stores, we continue to provide convenient digital services, as well as over-the-counter services as before. And our contact centre is fully operational with the vast majority of people still working from home.

We launched a number of offers, discounts and freebies for our customers during the lockdown period, including free calls, extra data, faster speeds, and plenty of free add-ons. We are also providing free access to educational websites.

For businesses, we increased our bandwidth speeds to ensure employees could work from home effectively and efficiently. We also offered unlimited calls, data packages, extra speeds and much more, all of which can be accessed through the enhanced B2B app or through account managers, to make working from home easier.

Oman’s digital transformation agenda was already well on-track, but the pandemic accelerated it. The transformation that has been made under such unprecedented circumstances has been remarkable, and thanks to our resilience and adaptability, we have for the most part been able to continue our operations and serve our customers, under vastly different and unusual times.

More than ever, people have realised how much more convenient it is to do things digitally and how much value it adds to their lives and it’s unlikely they’ll want to go back. We want to continue the positive developments that have been made throughout the pandemic and use them as building blocks for a post-COVID world. That means not only strengthening our commitment to enriching our customers’ digital lives, but contributing to the economic and social prosperity of Oman, as together we strive to overcome the impacts of the pandemic and face the future with confidence.

You have recently been selected by EduFair as the official telecom partner for the virtual exhibition for Higher Education Institutes. What is the importance of participating in such endeavors?

We’re pleased to have this opportunity once again to show practical support for education as well as showcasing the many Ooredoo Business products and services that can support education and related businesses.

Supporting education is a key focus for us as part of our corporate social responsibility strategy and we believe it’s our collective responsibility to nurture the next generation of leaders. This has been supported by various initiatives, long-term educational projects and training programs, through boosting educational opportunities and incubating digital entrepreneurship

Since the pandemic, as mentioned above, we have enabled free access to educational websites and online communication applications as part of a collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), to support students’ educational needs in light of schools closing down.

Working together with government organisations and private institutions, we are helping to nurture and develop many of tomorrow’s leaders and entrepreneurs and thus support Oman’s economy.

Furthermore, it is increasingly clear that online education will become a permanent component of all education in the years ahead and high-speed internet connectivity at home, and at educational institutions, is absolutely vital. With our significant investments in Fibre, 4G and 5G technologies, we are geared towards supporting this development in Oman.

You have been named by Forbes as one of the top-ranking companies in the region. What strategic steps have you adopted to get ahead of the competition?

This latest accolade reflects the Group’s phenomenal growth and vision. Our teams around the world are working to enable and enrich the digital lives of the communities we serve by providing much needed relief measures, innovative solutions, awesome digital services and great connectivity.

The Ooredoo Group is on a mission to empower customers across our global footprint to access and enjoy the best of the Internet in a way that is personal and unique to them. We continue to invest in our networks to ensure seamless connectivity that caters to our customers’ growing digital needs. The Group is working as a real digital enabler across its markets, with the aspiration of helping people simplify their lives and enjoy exciting and rewarding digital experiences.

How will your services benefit from 5G deployment/implementation? You have already opened pre-registration for 5G at home, what are the advantages of 5G technology?

The rollout of 5G marks a significant milestone in the Sultanate’s digital transformation journey, offering significantly higher network speeds with almost zero delay, which means faster downloads and uploads, better gaming experiences and super slick HDTV streaming. We have been gearing up for 5G for some time, upgrading the backbone connectivity to cater to the faster speeds and increased data traffic. Our 5G Home Internet service is now available in 88 locations in Muscat, Al Batinah, Al Dakhliyah, Al Wusta, Al Sharkiyah and Dhofar.  This new service offers consumers speeds of up to 100 Mbps.

However, the big promise of 5G comes with the low latency and the range of industrial applications it can benefit. It’s not just about self-drive cars and flying taxis, but how everyday things can be automated. For example, in the oil and gas industry, they may utilise drones to monitor wells and pipelines, as well as the automation of thousands of sensors.

There are also IoT solutions, such as smart metering, which we have already launched on existing technology in collaboration with the National Electricity & Energy Centre for the Public Authority for Water (Diam). In fact, this was the first-of-its-kind smart metering in Oman, which eliminates the challenges faced by utility providers when collecting meter readings, particularly in isolated residential locations.

The possibilities created by the technology will impact almost every aspect of our lives, all businesses government, healthcare, education, industry and the country is ready for it. We are excited to be offering our customers this transformative technology and taking their internet usage, and lives, to a whole new level.

You have entered into an agreement with the Ministry of Education to develop a new online education platform for Oman, what are some of the plans of this new agreement?

We’re very pleased to have signed this agreement with the Ministry of Education, as part of our CSR activities for Oman, and to be playing a role in Oman’s digital transformation while helping students reach their full potential in their educational journey.

This initiative is intended to address the challenges presented by COVID-19, ensuring that education is not disrupted moving forward. Linked to Oman’s Educational Portal, the platform will create virtual classrooms for students to learn from a distance across the country as well as enable discussion forums for teachers and administrators to share best practices and monitor growth and development in line with international indexes.

The platform will include the latest educational features and tools such as an e-library. User friendly and efficient, it will also ensure students interact easily with teachers, enjoy access to learning material, have their questions and queries answered, all the while keeping track of their progress. What’s even more, the e-learning platform will be accessible on mobiles and tablets through a dedicated App. It will also enable for additional material to be uploaded to aid distant learning as well as generate reports pertaining to the services available. Making it interactive, teachers will be able to host seminars, present projects and exchange ideas and perspectives that are beneficial to students.

How do ICT solutions address energy sustainability in mega cities? How can you implement ICT technology for security to ensure customers are given the protection and privacy they need?

ICT-based mega cities are able to leverage technology to enrich the lives of their populations, improve public services, transport, traffic flows, power, water supply, waste management, security and more.  They are well known not just for the quality of life of their inhabitants but also for their ability to attract businesses and investment.

Through the Digital Oman Strategy, Oman is working on harnessing the full potential of ICT and building on the sector as part of its bid to widen its economic prospects. Moreover, the implementation of new technologies as part of the Information Technology Authority’s vision of creating a Knowledge Based Society is facilitating the successful integration of new services in our homes, places of work, and throughout the education system. These steps are creating the foundations for future smart city initiatives in the Sultanate.  

When it comes to security, protecting employees and client data should be a top priority and making sure systems are resilient, secure and redundant will be just as important — if not more important — than new features.

How is sustainability driving growth in the telecoms industry? Do you a have a Green strategy in place?

As major consumers of energy to power our network, we are continually looking to new green technologies to reduce cost and improve sustainability. We deploy Solar Energy within our network where it makes economical and commercial sense. We also use special solutions to reduce the fuel consumption for generators in a number of sites, resulting in less pollution.

Our HSE department makes sure we are as environmentally friendly as is possible on a corporate level. They are responsible for our company recycling programme, overseeing our responsible energy consumption, ensuring office efficiency by saving paper and many more activities. They also work to ensure our employees enjoy a healthy work environment.

We do emphasise the importance of corporate and personal environmental responsibility and stewardship in all our activities. We focus on empowering our staff to play an active role in the preservation and conservation of Oman’s environment and to give a helping hand to communities. This includes holding volunteer-based events like our regular beach clean-up events and we have more activities in the pipeline.

As an organization, how committed are you to social responsibility? Tell us about your more recent CSR initiatives?

Corporate Social Responsibility has remained a mainstay of Ooredoo’s promise to enrich people’s lives. The company’s CSR programme, known as Ooredoo Goodwill, has grown to encompass all areas of the community, social development, education and empowerment.

Enabling budding entrepreneurs to prosper from the internet, our Springboard program (for women) and Spring Forward program (for both men and women), champion digital entrepreneurship and help young Omani’s to get their digital businesses off the ground, whether social media, online or app-based. Last year, we awarded teams from our Springboard and Spring Forward programs a start-up budget for the first time, as we placed a greater emphasis on education and supporting Oman’s economy by helping to develop and equip Oman’s future leaders and small business owners. 

Our annual Goodwill Journey, which celebrates its 16th anniversary this year, focuses on fostering women’s empowerment, education and self-sufficiency, as well as promoting the sustainable development of communities across the country. Some of last year’s activities included popening two new women’s incubators, taking the total to 13.

In partnership with the Ministry of Social Development, our Goodwill volunteers launched a carpentry room, computer lab and sensory room at The Al-Wafa Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children in Al Amerat. Three more sensory rooms in Al Khaboura, Nizwa and Ibra were also set up during the year, as well as the design and implementation of two ‘Digital Entertainment Rooms’ for the Paediatric Cancer and Paediatric Surgery rooms at the Royal Hospital.

Making good on our promise to promote education, we continued to update and enhance our popular Digital Tutorial App. For the first time in the Sultanate, Ooredoo is also preparing activity files for students in kindergarten and pre-school, which include video clips to teach the alphabet in Arabic and English, mathematics and science, in addition to exercises and educational activities from the curricula of a number of Arab and Gulf countries.

Along the same lines, the team donated digital devices to the Abu Hamza Al Shari School in Sohar, the Al Noor Association for the Blind in Ad Dhahirah and to less fortunate families in Masirah. We also visited hospitals in Sohar, building an outdoor playground, and in Duqm where they distributed medical beds to enhance the standard of care. Equipment was also donated to the Oman Association for the Disabled in Al Buraimi and the Omani Bahjah Orphan Society in Salalah, with whom a two-year contract was signed to support the ‘Saturday Market’ in Dhofar. The weekly event provides the families of the association with a unique platform to bolster their income and showcase their talents.

When COVID-19 hit, our priorities changed and we were able to mobilise quickly to redirect our efforts and support to initiatives that helped the nationwide fight to stop the virus’ spread and mitigate its wider impacts. Since March, we have donated various medical testing supplies and equipment to a number of hospitals across Oman, have provided free data to returning students contained in quarantine and also whitelisted educational websites.

For us at Ooredoo, our core values – caring, connecting, challenging – are not simply a statement, they are something we live by, and translate into action every day, every month, every year.

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