Leading data and analytics company GlobalData published its Country Intelligence Report on Bahrain mobile and fixed telecommunications market, observing big telcos determination to focus on broadband services development through 5G and fiber rollouts.

Batelco, which dominates the mobile, fixed voice, and fixed broadband segments (accounting in 2019 for subscription shares of 43.8%, 81.3% and 78.0%, respectively) is focusing on enhancing its mobile and fixed networks to address the growing demand for broadband Internet access. The operator commercially launched a local 5G network in June 2019 and has been planning for nationwide 5G rollout by 2022. To free up spectrum capacity for 5G deployment, Batelco shut down its 2G network in December 2019.

In the fixed segment, Batelco has been focusing on the corporate and retail segments. It is offering multiplay bundles to to further drive growth in the fixed services market. For instance, its SmartSaver multiplay bundles include unlimited telephony calls to all Batelco lines along with up to 300GB for home broadband Internet access and 5GB of mobile data.

In October 2019, Bahrain’s government completed the separation of Batelco’s retail and wholesale operations announcing the launch of Bahrain’s National Broadband Network (BNET). The new entity is providing a fiber broadband network to all telcos operating in the country, while Batelco will solely focus on retail and corporate operations. The launch of the purely wholesale operator strengthens the competition and will potentially serve all fixed Internet access providers in Bahrain.

Zain and STC Bahrain upgrade services

Another big player, Zain Bahrain, with 32.0% of total mobile subscriptions, has also been focusing on 5G development. In November 2019, the operator signed a contract with Ericsson for LTE network upgrade to the 5G standard, planning the commercial launch of 5G services. In the same month the company launched its fiber-optic broadband services to monetize the demand for broadband access from residential and enterprise customers. Extended scope of services will allow the operator to benefit from converged, mobile and fixed, offers on high-speed Internet access both on fiber and on 4G/5G networks.

For instance, Zain Bahrain is driving data usage by offering 10GB free data to postpaid business customers for three months starting April 2020 and free access to educational portals for home broadband customers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The third telco by mobile subscribers share, STC Bahrain, is developing its 5G network following the commercial launch of 5G services in June 2019. The operator is also active in the fixed services segment, trying to increase its fixed broadband subscriber base by offering home fiber broadband packages with two months free of charge for the 24-month contract commitment periods.

Additional licences cater for growing demand

All operators are benefitting from the regulatory decision made in July 2019, allocating additional frequency licenses for 60MHz (paired 2×30MHz) of spectrum in the 800MHz band and 140MHz in the 2600MHz band to Batelco, Zain Bahrain, and STC Bahrain to cater for the growing demand for mobile data services.

Despite the Covid-19 disruption, the Bahrain telecommunications market is expected to remain broadly resilient.

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