While penetration of the Internet is important, its speed is also key to the overall development of any national economy.
Internet penetration has been the focus of governments across the world in the past two years. Official statistics reveal the results have been impressive despite the fact there may be still a long way to travel.
Having said that the penetration factor has been taken into account, it is the Internet speed that calls for improvement.
According to official sources, the demand for data comes from videos and gaming. The government is working towards placing the country among the top ten in terms of speed.
While we chalk out plans for the future, the Internet speed in Oman still seems to be in the evolving stages. As per the Akmai.com, the average connection speed in Oman is 4,927 kbps. In the other GCC countries, it is as follows: UAE 8,570 kbps, Saudi Arabia 6,705 kbps, Qatar 13,710 kbps, Kuwait 7,920 kbps and Bahrain 7,922 kbps.
Globally, the average Internet speed in the UK is nearly 17,000 kbps, around 19,000 in the United States and nearly 8,000 in China.
Internet speed has evolved from the era of dial-ups to the 2G, 3G and 4G. If sources are to be believed, 5G is only a matter of months away in Oman and will provide better speeds and coverage than the current 4G.
According to experts, 5G operates with a 5Ghz signal and is set to offer speeds of up to 1 Gb/s for tens of connections or tens of Mb/s for tens of thousands of connections. 5G is expected to provide speeds 100x faster than 4G LTE. 5G also increases network expandability up to hundreds of thousands of connections.
“Internet prices in Oman have become competitive over the years, but still services do not offer the value for money in my opinion. I keep getting different views – like they are erratic depending on the locations and time (peak and non-peak hours) among others,” said Haitham, a student and a part-time employee. According to S Mustafa, an engineer on the Internet operations side, “Internet is always on the evolving side and so the demand for high-speed services as almost all conventional paper-pen jobs are handled online.”
He adds, “The important point is not what we have now but the infrastructure that is being built for the future. I think Oman is moving in the right direction because the future of SMEs and their abilities to successfully create jobs depend on the connectivity,” he said.
Layla al Balushi says there is no value for money and the speed is much less compared with the neighbouring countries. “We should compare ourselves with the top-ranked countries and not be satisfied with the fact that we are better off compared with many others.”
In 2015, the government reportedly signed a deal for the first stage of a high-speed fibre optic network that will increase the network speed by 1,000 times, to begin with in government offices. A specialised telecom operator has been gradually offering high-speed fibre Internet to more parts of the city.