Key View: Bahrain’s upcoming spectrum auction will not alter market dynamics but will allow operators to continue the expansion of premium services dependent on high-speed broadband.
Acknowledging the growing demand for mobile broadband services, Bahrain’s telecoms regulator, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), has issued a consultation for new spectrum to be awarded in the 800MHz and 2600MHz frequency bands. In total, the spectrum available will be 60MHz in the 800 MHz band, available as 2x30MHz of paired spectrum, and 140MHz in the 2600MHz band, to be offered as paired or unpaired spectrum. The provisional date for the results will be November 25 2018. Reserve prices start at BHD1.3mn (USD3.3mn) for the 800MHz band and BHD166,000 (USD44,000) for the 2600MHz band.
Balanced Spectrum Allocations, No Operator Has An Advantage
Spectrum Allocations Per Operator (2018)
Source: regulator, Fitch Solutions.
Only the operators already present in the market, Zain, VIVA and incumbent Batelco, will be able to participate in the auction. The regulator aims to maintain the balance present in spectrum holdings and has set cap limits. As such, we do not expect the auction to change market dynamics but rather allow operators to continue focusing on developing advanced services, many of which, including cloud computing and IPTV, are based on reliable high-speed broadband. In particular, the auction of spectrum will also allow operators to accelerate the deployment of 5G ready infrastructure ( see ‘Middle East Also In The Race For 5G’, May 23 2018).
– Viva Bahrain launched a live 5G network public showcase in June 2018 in Bahrain. The company plans to deploy and launch commercial 5G services once spectrum is available.
– Zain Bahrain’s parent company, Zain Group, signed a MoU with Ericsson to collaborate on 5G and Internet of Things(IoT) related use cases in early 2018, with the intention of a commercial launch of a 5G network at the end of 2018. The operator launched an integrated 5G network in its home market of Kuwait in June 2018.
– Batelco also signed a MoU with Ericsson in late 2016, to collaborate on the development of 5G and IoT use cases. They conducted a successful trial in May 2017, but there have not been any updates since.
Both Zain and VIVA have 90MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band for the provision of fixed wireless services, but would require the regulator’s approval prior to launching 5G mobile services over the band. VIVA gained the spectrum after acquiring ISP Menatelcom in 2018, which provides broadband services through WiMAX technology.
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