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. Plans include further development of fibre-optic infrastructure and affordable prices for high-speed access. This blueprint for the future will see Bahrain have full fibre optic coverage in the next few years.
The Internet penetration rate was 92.7% in mid-2016. In mid 2015 the Global IP Exchange (GIPX) interoperability hub developed by BT and VIVA was launched. 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.
Mobile operators in Bahrain are under pressure amidst falling mobile ARPUs which in 2016, are now around half the amount they were in 2008. However revenues from mobile broadband are continuously rising. The amount of revenue generated by residential users of broadband is significantly higher than that from businesses. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Bahrain (TRA) is a Bahrain governmental institution devoted to protecting the interests of subscribers and users, promoting effective and fair competition among established and new licensed operators, and developing the Kingdom of Bahrain as the region’s most modern communications hub.
Oil comprises 86% of Bahraini budget revenues, despite past efforts to diversify its economy and to build communication and transport facilities for multinational firms with business in the Gulf. As part of its diversification plans, Bahrain implemented a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US in August 2006, the first FTA between the US and a Gulf state.
Other major economic activities are production of aluminum – Bahrain’s second biggest export after oil – finance, and construction. Bahrain continues to seek new natural gas supplies as feedstock to support its expanding petrochemical and aluminum industries.
In 2011 Bahrain experienced economic setbacks as a result of domestic unrest driven by the majority Shia population, however, the economy recovered in 2012-15, partly as a result of improved tourism. In addition to addressing its current fiscal woes, Bahraini authorities face the long-term challenge of boosting Bahrain’s regional competitiveness—especially regarding industry, finance, and tourism—and reconciling revenue constraints with popular pressure to maintain generous state subsidies and a large public sector.
Bahrain Telecommunications Company (aka “Batelco”) is the main telecommunications company in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The company is headquartered in Bahrain and is listed on the Bahrain Bourse. It provides services for mobiles through GSM 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 2100 and LTE 1800 while its residential Internet is an ADSL, Wireless (3G/4G) or FTTH service. The Batelco Group has evolved to become a major communications company with direct and indirect investments across 14 geographies.