Bahrain - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

Executive summary

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)

Key developments:

  • 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.

Companies covered in this report include:

Batelco, MenaTelecom, Kalaam Telecom, 2Connect, Noorsat, Zain Bahrain, Viva Bahrain.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Executive summary
  • 2. Key statistics
    • 2.1 Country overview
  • 3. Telecommunications market
    • 3.1 Historical overview
    • 3.2 Market analysis
    • 3.3 Recent developments
  • 4. Regulatory environment
    • 4.1 Regulatory authority
    • 4.2 Overview
    • 4.3 Telecom sector liberalisation in Bahrain
      • 4.3.1 First National Telecommunications Plan
      • 4.3.2 Second National Telecommunications Plan and planned measures
      • 4.3.3 Third National Telecommunications Plan
      • 4.3.4 Fourth National Telecommunications Plan
      • 4.3.5 Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) licences
    • 4.4 Interconnect
    • 4.5 Access
    • 4.6 Number portability
    • 4.7 Privatisation
  • 5. Fixed network operators in Bahrain
    • 5.1 Overview
    • 5.2 Bahrain telecommunications company (Batelco)
      • 5.2.1 Historical overview
      • 5.2.2 Recent developments
    • 5.3 Alternative operators
      • 5.3.1 MenaTelecom
      • 5.3.2 Kalaam Telecom
      • 5.3.3 2Connect (revoked)
  • 6. Telecommunications infrastructure
    • 6.1 National telecom network
    • 6.2 International infrastructure
      • 6.2.1 Submarine cable networks
      • 6.2.2 Satellite networks
      • 6.2.3 Noorsat
  • 7. Smart infrastructure
    • 7.1 M2M/IoT/Big Data
    • 7.2 Smart energy
  • 8. Wholesaling
    • 8.1 Overview
  • 9. Broadband access market
    • 9.1 Market analysis
    • 9.2 Broadband statistics
    • 9.3 Broadband subscriber forecasts
      • 9.3.1 Scenario 1 – higher growth
      • 9.3.2 Scenario 2 – lower growth
    • 9.4 Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP) and Fibre-To-The-Home (FttH)
      • 9.4.1 National Broadband Network (NBN)
    • 9.5 Other fixed broadband services
      • 9.5.1 Fixed wireless (WiFi and WiMAX)
      • 9.5.2 iBurst
  • 10. Digital economy
    • 10.1 Introduction
    • 10.2 e-Commerce
      • 10.2.1 Sharing economy
    • 10.3 e-Banking
    • 10.4 e-Government
    • 10.5 e-Health
    • 10.6 e-Education
  • 11. Digital media
    • 11.1 Introduction
    • 11.2 Videostreaming
      • 11.2.1 Introduction
      • 11.2.2 Video-based services
      • 11.2.3 Broadband TV (IPTV)
    • 11.3 Social media
    • 11.4 VoIP
    • 11.5 Music
    • 11.6 On line gaming and gambling
  • 12. Mobile communications
    • 12.1 Market analysis
    • 12.2 Mobile statistics
      • 12.2.1 General statistics
    • 12.3 Mobile voice
      • 12.3.1 Prepaid
      • 12.3.2 Mobile data
    • 12.4 Mobile broadband statistics
    • 12.5 Regulatory issues
      • 12.5.1 Second mobile licence
      • 12.5.2 Third mobile licence
      • 12.5.3 Prepaid subscriber registration
      • 12.5.4 Roaming tariff reduction
      • 12.5.5 MNP
    • 12.6 Mobile infrastructure
      • 12.6.1 Brief intro analogue networks
      • 12.6.2 Digital networks
    • 12.7 Major mobile operators
      • 12.7.1 Batelco
      • 12.7.2 Zain Bahrain
      • 12.7.3 Viva Bahrain / STC Bahrain
    • 12.8 Mobile content and applications
      • 12.8.1 m-commerce
      • 12.8.2 m-banking (payments/loans)
      • 12.8.3 m-TV
    • 12.9 Mobile handsets
  • 13. Related reports
  • Table 1 – Country statistics – Bahrain - 2016
  • Table 2 – Telecom revenue statistic – 2014
  • Table 3 – Telephone network statistics – 2016
  • Table 4 – Broadband statistics – 2016
  • Table 5 – Mobile statistics – 2016
  • Table 6 – National telecommunications authorities
  • Table 7 – GDP growth and inflation – 2005 - 2016
  • Table 8 – Telecom sector revenue – 2006 - 2014
  • Table 9 – Telecom sector revenue breakdown – 2012 - 2014
  • Table 10 – Batelco revenue and profit – Bahrain and other - 2005 – 2015
  • Table 11 – Batelco revenue by division - 2005 – 2015
  • Table 13 – Historic - Fixed lines in service and teledensity - 1995 – 2004
  • Table 14 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 2005 – 2016
  • Table 15 – ARPU for National calls – 2010 - 2014
  • Table 16 – Historic - Internet users and penetration estimates - 1995 - 2004
  • Table 17 – Internet users and penetration estimates - 2005 - 2015
  • Table 18 – Broadband subscribers - 2005 - 2016
  • Table 19 – Broadband sector revenue – 2010 - 2014
  • Table 20 – Forecast broadband subscribers – higher market growth scenario – 2018; 2024
  • Table 21 – Forecast broadband subscribers – lower market growth scenario –2018; 2024
  • Table 22 – Bahrain – IPTV subscribers – Q1 2013; Q1 2014; Q1 2015
  • Table 23 - Facebook Stats for Bahrain compared to other Middle Eastern countries - as at July 2015
  • Table 24 – Historic - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate - 1995 - 2004
  • Table 25 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate - 2005 - 2016
  • Table 26 – Mobile market revenue – 2007 - 2014
  • Table 27 – Mobile monthly ARPU – 2008 - 2014
  • Table 28 – Bahrain total prepaid mobile subscribers - 1999 – Q1 2015
  • Table 29 – Zain Bahrain prepaid subscribers - 2004 - 2014
  • Table 30 – SMS message sent – 2008 - 2013
  • Table 31 – Mobile broadband subscribers – 2012 - 2016
  • Table 32 – Accepted cumulative mobile number portability requests – 2011 - 2015
  • Table 12 – Batelco total group mobile subscribers – 2005 - 2015
  • Table 34 – Zain Bahrain – revenue, EBITDA, CAPEX and ARPU - 2005 – 2015
  • Exhibit 1 – Bahrain – National fixed voice services operators

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