Huawei to Deploy 5G and AI Capabilities at Strategic Omani Port on the Strait of Hormuz

On March 14, it was report­ed that Huawei and Oman’s largest state-run telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­ny, Oman­tel, entered into a tri-par­ty “Proof of Con­cept” agree­ment with the oper­a­tor of Sohar Port to deploy 5G and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence capa­bil­i­ties at the port’s con­tain­er han­dling ter­mi­nal.  The agree­ment was the lat­est indi­ca­tor of Chi­nese inter­est and/or invest­ment in the port, build­ing on expres­sions of inter­est from Bei­jing that were ini­tial­ly report­ed in 2015 con­cern­ing the devel­op­ment and expan­sion of Sohar Port under the ban­ner of its Mar­itime Silk Road ambitions.

Chi­na’s inter­est in the port has been attrib­uted to its strate­gic loca­tion on the Strait of Hor­muz — a crit­i­cal pas­sage­way for mar­itime trade between Asia and Europe.  Sit­u­at­ed on the Gulf of Oman, approx­i­mate­ly 200 km from Mus­cat and 160 km from Dubai, the port also has the poten­tial to become an impor­tant hub for trade with Iran and the Ara­bi­an peninsula.

Since 2005, the oper­a­tor of Sohar Port has been Hutchi­son Ports Sohar, a joint-ven­ture between Hong Kong-based Hutchi­son Ports, the Gov­ern­ment of the Sul­tanate of Oman, Nether­lands-based Stein­weg, and an amal­gam of indi­vid­ual Omani investors.  News of the 5G and AI agree­ment fol­lows a sep­a­rate agree­ment signed just last month between Sohar Port and Hutchi­son Ports Sohar to con­duct a fea­si­bil­i­ty study for the port’s expansion.

For Oman’s part, the expan­sion and devel­op­ment of its ports into inter­na­tion­al trans­ship­ment logis­tics hubs is an impor­tant part of its strat­e­gy to diver­si­fy its econ­o­my and dilute its cur­rent finan­cial depen­dence on oil and gas.

Beyond just the Port of Sohar, Huawei has had a sig­nif­i­cant rela­tion­ship with Oman­tel.  In Feb­ru­ary 2020, a 5G net­work deploy­ment deal with Huawei was approved.  Between 2020 and 2024, Oman­tel aims to estab­lish more than 2,200 5G sites across the Sul­tanate.  Huawei is report­ed­ly among “mul­ti­ple” ser­vice providers for this ini­tia­tive.  The Chi­nese com­pa­ny was also a pri­ma­ry ven­dor for Omantel’s pre­vi­ous 4G deployment.