Tuesday 20 April 2021

Bahrain has 100% 5G Coverage

The telecommunications sector in Bahrain is vibrant and progressive and it contributes about 4% a year to the Kingdom’s GDP. Bahrain attempted to drive further growth in the telecoms sector in 2020 by ensuring it is competitive and adaptable to market dynamics. It has the added pressure of coping with the impact from the global Covid-19 outbreak and ensuring provision of adequate Internet services and applications to home-based citizens.

The major telecoms operators include Batelco, STC Bahrain and Zain Bahrain. The industry is regulated by Telecommunications Regulator (TRA) which has been working hard to resolve any regulatory or spectrum hurdles in readiness for 5G. This government support, along with proactive operators, resulted in Batelco launching the first commercial 5G network in Bahrain in mid-2019.

Batelco also undertook a significant operational restructure in 2019 and launched Bahrain’s National Broadband Network operated by BNET. Bahrain’s telecommunications industry is guided by its Fourth National Telecommunications Plan which focuses on fibre-optic infrastructure deployment and establishing affordable prices for high-speed access.

Overall, the mobile broadband sector is poised for growth with 4G networks in place and a high mobile subscriber penetration paving the way for adoption.

The three mobile operators as mentioned are Batelco, Zain  and STC (formerly Viva). 2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (band 3) has started on all three operators. 4G/LTE is available on prepaid. All providers cover already 99% of the country by 4G/LTE in 2016 and give average download rates of more than 20 Mbps. The three competitors are very much neck on neck.

Zain based in Kuwait is the second carrier in Bahrain with a good coverage and similar prices. All prepaid data are on 4G/LTE too.

Zain Bahrain has selected Ericsson’s dual-band 4T4R AIR 4455, an antenna-integrated radio solution to boost its 4G and 5G coverage in Manama.

The deployment of Ericsson AIR 4455 enables 5G through Ericsson Spectrum Sharing. Increasing capacity and user data rates; as well as strengthening Zain Bahrain’s network operations with a tailored solution designed for street macro coverage in dense urban centers.

Ericsson's AIR 4455 solution offers Zain Bahrain the opportunity to seamlessly bring connectivity to urban centers. As part of Ericsson Radio System, the street macro deployment solution is an integrated part of the network, with feature parity and end-to-end performance.

Ultimately, Zain Bahrain will now serve dense, high foot-traffic areas in the country with improved 4G and 5G data rates, enhancing user experience. Additionally, Ericsson street macro solutions align with Bahrain Economic Vision 2030 to improve technology provisions and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority’s (TRA) objective to minimize the visual visibility of 4G and 5G sites in Bahrain.

STC formerly called Viva is the 3rd and newest carrier coming from Saudi Arabia. It has the reputation of having the best network (LTE-Advanced/4G+) and lowest rates in the Kingdom. In December 2019 it was rebranded to STC for Saudi Telecom Company with a new logo. 

Batelco is the national provider and the only landline/ADSL provider in the country. As in most cases, it has 2nd best coverage and is the most expensive at the same time.  Batelco has informed customers that its 2G network will be phased out by 31 December 2019.  

Batelco has announced in October 2020 that it has successfully activated 5G coverage across Bahrain.

The 5G coverage is available in all four governorates covering 95 percent of the nation’s population. This, says Batelco, makes it the first operator to have national 5G coverage in Bahrain – and positions Batelco among the leading operators in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a political and economic alliance of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Although Bahrain is not big (it covers an area estimated at  765.3 square kilometres) the rollout does seems to have happened quite quickly. It was in March last year that Batelco signed a partnership agreement with Ericsson to build a national 5G mobile network over a period of two years.

In June 2019, Batelco announced that it was the first operator in Bahrain and among the first in the region to deliver commercial 5G network services for its customers.

In January this year, Mobile Magazine reported that according to Bahrain’s Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications, two of the country’s three mobile operators now have full coverage, prompting a new wave of opportunities for streaming, gaming and supply chain technologies. 

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