Industry Thought Leadership

Gearing up for 5G in Oman

May, 2019
Bernhard Van der Merwe
Vice President of Technology

Omantel

With the world’s tech giants vying for leadership in 5G technology, it is uncertain who will win the heated race, but one thing we know is that not only will 5G be an essential and integral part of our Network in the future, it will also change the way we design, operate, sell and live.

At speeds up to 10 Gbps and ultra-low latency, this new technology will pave the way for a thriving digital society, with huge potential to massively develop smart cities, campus networks, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, entertainment and many more.

As a premier telecom company that leads the future with innovation and excellence, Omantel had been gearing up for 5G over the past 2 years, and our network is now fully ready to adopt this new technology.

Omantel, being a partner of choice for major public and private entities in the Sultanate, works hand in hand with all parties to enrich the digital experience in the country, and support the Government in achieving Oman 2040 vision, where economic diversification is included as one of the key goals.

This article will elaborate on the correlation between the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Omantel’s efforts into introducing the development of 5G use cases, the current challenges, the motivation, and the ultimate solution.

5G Use Cases: Current Challenges and Motivation
The increasing demand of highly customized and digitized products can be seen as a trigger for the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, where we will see increased integration between digital domains and offline reality. Current LTE wireless technology fall short to sustain such requirements in mainly three areas:

  • LTE does not support fiber-like throughput
  • LTE does not support Massive Number of sensor networks
  • LTE latency does not support mission-critical applications

To overcome these challenges in LTE, current systems highly rely on wireline technologies to connect sensors and control systems. This vastly restricts its current flexibility, and will not enable new solutions related to remote control and critical response systems; such as remote mining, remote manufacturing, robotics, drones and the ability to connect hard to reach locations.

Ultimate Solution:
Enabling the demands of a digitalized future can only be realized through the development of technologies that overcome the prevailing limitations, and 5G has emerged as a bold solution due to major improvements in:

  • Ultra-High-Speed Broadband (10 – 100 times faster than LTE)
  • Massive Machine Type Communications (100 times existing LTE connectivity per square Km)
  • Critical Machine Type Communications / Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (50 times faster than average 4G latencies)

5G Use Case Development Challenges:
Although 5G standards were recently established, and equipment makers are producing the first batch of 5G ready systems (starting first half 2019), use case development is still in its infancy stage, as well as general availability of mobile devices and CPEs will only commercially evolve in volume by second half of 2019.

As a Communications Service Provider, our present dilemma rests fully in the question of monetization of use cases at scale to justify nationwide 5G rollout:

  • While eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband) might naturally be assumed the cornerstone of 5G, Mobile Broadband depends heavily on device and coverage penetration, both of which are limited during early network deployment, and further suffer the challenge of matching their simultaneous geographical presence.
  • Fixed Wireless Access on the other hand offers much faster monetization opportunities, as its ecosystem is inherited and coordinated with 4G where device readiness is more mature, and the technological complexity is much reduced due to limited mobility.
  • Vertical use cases are covering diverse areas without bounds and limitless in its variety. However, specific use cases are expected to remain small in scale and limited in creativity for a while, waiting for more maturity to develop in the market on understanding 5G and its potential.

Unlike previous wireless generations, 5G does not present a single killer app, nor is a single killer app expected to be identified. It is clear that 5G presents new challenges that the industry did not face before; the need for collaboration beyond the confines of vendor and Communication Service Providers (CSP) to create value that the market will demand in volume. CSP’s are no more the single entity responsible of developing and providing the service. This time, use case development requires joint-development between

  • Telecom Operators
  • Government and Municipalities
  • Large and Medium Enterprise corporates
  • Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses
  • Network Equipment Makers
  • Universities and Research Institutes
  • + many other entities

Telecom Operators may play the role of incubators to allow the orchestration of such use case development, and Omantel is already finalizing the setup of an incubation centre at it new HQ in Muscat.

5G Use Case Development Engagements:
To serve as an example of collaboration between industry and community, Omantel recently (Mar 2019) concluded a year-long 5G Use Case competition titled ‘Omantel 5G Use Cases University/College Competition’. This initiative is a first of its kind in Oman, and serve as a continuation of the innovative spirit in our quest of engaging local entrepreneurial minds to identify relevant 5G use cases and innovations that will transform the way we live, work and learn.

This initiative is aimed at raising awareness on the importance of technology, and encourage students to increase their interest and participation in innovative technologies, which contribute to ‘Digital Oman’ efforts. The competition included all engineering colleges within Oman, and resulted in choosing best 5G use case ideas out of young college students. The 1st winner will receive an intensive one-week course in Stockholm and 3 months of remote coaching, while in addition the 1st, the 2nd and 3rd winners will be given a one-month training by Omantel to incubate their project ideas and involve them into Omantel’s use case development teams to witness the business lifecycle and implementation.

As for 5G Use Case engagements in the Enterprise domain, Omantel engage with enterprise players through workshops and collaboration, and we have already reached advanced discussions on several 5G use cases with multiple entities from Oil & Gas, Ports Authorities, and many others are under way.

Conclusion:
As our Omantel 3.0 transformation strategy has already changed the company from a primarily infrastructure player to a digital customer oriented service provider, we are looking to enhance the public participation in innovative and smart technologies that will change the way we live and do business. The days of working alone on creating monetization out of Telecom investment is gone, and the time for collaboration across the full value chain is essential.

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