Oman Gas Company to look at ways to tap telco market

Oman Gas Company (OGC) is looking at moving into the telco market. A senior executive at the utility said it is considering plans to become a network service provider, by leasing some of its own telecom bandwidth to business customers in the Sultanate.

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By  Chris Whyatt Published  November 27, 2005

Oman Gas Company (OGC) is looking at moving into the telco market. A senior executive at the utility said it is considering plans to become a network service provider, by leasing some of its own telecom bandwidth to business customers in the Sultanate. OGC, which was set up by the Omani government in 2001 to oversee its gas development programme, has implemented an internet protocol (IP) telephony system, which was supplied by Cisco Systems. It is now looking at plans to lease some of the excess telecom bandwidth to other businesses, especially those lying within more remote areas. “This is a line of business we are exploring,” Hussam El-Gammal, IT and telecom manager, OGC, told IT Weekly. “We have the infrastructure in place, so we are able to do it. We have access to bandwidth, and we have got excess capacity on our IP telephony system,” he went on to reveal. While OGC’s internal IP telephony system can support up to 350 phone lines, it is currently using just over 150. Initially, OGC could lease out the 200 spare lines not in use, according to El-Gammal. However, the number of users that OGC could support would be greatly increased if it were to carry out planned hardware and software upgrades to the IP system, El-Gammal said. That would allow it to offer services to more businesses. OGC was awarded a licence to resend and access telecom bandwidth by the telecom regulation authority in Oman when the company was created. As yet it has only used the comprehensive fibre-optic network it owns, which runs from Salalah in the south up to Sohar in the north, for its own purposes. “We have the ability to give nodes (processing locations) from any point on the pipeline,” El-Gammal believes. “They are every 30km apart across the 1700km pipeline — so from any point we can provide the service,” he noted, and predicted that a fixed timeframe for the new business venture could be in place within six months. Though OGC itself uses IP telephony to interconnect its own offices across Oman, the service it intends to provide would come in the form of conventional, analogue phone lines. This would be enabled by OGC through an IP-analogue converter traced between the two systems, which companies can hook up to lines connected to the private automatic branch exchange(PABX), already in place throughout Oman. The specific telecom bandwidth it will offer to businesses is dark fibre leafing: optical fibre infrastructure that is currently in place but is not being used by the company. OGC’s expansion plans are being fuelled by its own innovative usage of modern communications systems. Since August it has been using IP/TV, a Cisco IP telephony video feature, to enhance link ups between senior management at head office and other staff at its regional branches. OGC is also using it for remote training of employees. “We place the camera in the training room at head office, and users in our remote branches dial into that number, listening to the training from the speakerphone and watching it on the videofeed,” said El-Gammal. “The cost is minimal [when you already have the infrastructure in place], but it gives us a lot of benefits,” he claimed.

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