Bahrain's regulatory authority implements measures to improve services
There are a number of developments underway in Bahrain which will improve both services and infrastructure going forward. Bahrain already has a progressive telecoms market which is liberalised to a large extent and one of the most open in the region, underpinned by a relatively well-developed regulatory structure. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is the primary driver behind many of the key planned improvements to the current telecoms market in Bahrain.
Bahrain's Third National Telecommunication Plan expired at the end of 2015 and the Fourth National Telecommunications Plan was given approval by the Ministry in May 2016. It will reportedly focus on further developing fibre-optic infrastructure and implementing affordable prices for high-speed access. It also includes consideration of 5G development and readiness. This blueprint for the future will see Bahrain have full fibre optic coverage in three years, according to the TRA's Director-General.
The TRA has been making concerted efforts to improve telecommunication services and over the past year or so has conducted surveys in order to gauge citizen's feedback and subsequently implement measures to make targeted improvements. The area of billing has been of particular focus with the TRA attempting to reduce bill shock in the area of international roaming.
Mobile operators in Bahrain are under pressure amidst falling mobile APRUs which in 2016, are now around half the amount they were in 2008. However revenues from mobile broadband are continuously rising and now contribute over 35% to total broadband revenues in Bahrain compared to only 7% in 2010. In addition mobile broadband usage is growing representing over 50% of total broadband usage today.
The amount of revenue generated by residential users of broadband is significantly higher than that from businesses indicating there are potential growth opportunities in the broadband enterprise sector for both wired and wireless services in Bahrain.
Going forward Bahrain is well positioned and supported by government to make the necessary changes and appropriate measures to ensure it remains one of the most progressive telecoms markets in the Middle East. The operators are now beginning to turn their attention towards Internet of Everything (IoT) initiatives including M2M service offerings.
Key telecom parameters 2013; 2016 Sector | 2013 | 2016 Subscribers to telecoms services (million): (e) Broadband users | 1.63 | 2.35 Fixed-line telephony | 0.25 | 0.23 Mobile phone | 2.21 | 2.53 (Source: BuddeComm based on industry data)
The results of a strategic review of Bahrain's telecoms market were released in 2015 and identified a number of projects and activities to be concluded over the following 18 months.
The Fourth National Telecommunications Plan was approved in May 2016.
At the end of 2015, Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) announced a 4% loss in gross revenues compared to 2014. This was due to the increased competition in the market which resulted in decline in subscriber numbers.
While the number of post-paid subscribers in Bahrain is lower than pre-paid this market segment actually contributes around 52% to overall retail mobile market revenues.
In mid 2015 the Global IP Exchange (GIPX) interoperability hub developed by BT and VIVA was launched.