The chairman of Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), Mohammed Ahmed Al-Amer, has said that he expects the country’s third mobile licensee Saudi Telecom Company (STC) to launch commercial services by the end of 2009 or early 2010, with the effect of reducing end-user tariffs and improving levels of service in the market. STC will invest USD100 million on infrastructure development, said Al-Amer, adding that ‘Bahrain has emerged as one of the most open and competitive markets in the telecoms sector in the region, thanks to the… liberalised and level playing field for all telecom players.’ According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, STC won Bahrain’s third mobile network operating licence in January 2009 with a bid of BHD86.7 million (USD231 million), breaking the duopoly of state-run Batelco and Kuwaiti-owned Zain. The Saudi firm revealed plans to launch Bahraini operations in the second half of 2009 with the aim of acquiring a 20% market share in ten years. In addition, STC committed itself to establishing a USD300 million venture capital fund in Bahrain that will nurture communications and IT companies in the region. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have strong links, as several million people cross a causeway linking the two kingdoms every year.