Two mobile operators in Bahrain have announced new developments in their rollouts of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) services. Viva Bahrain, a unit of Saudi Telecom Company (STC), launched a small-scale LTE network on New Year’s Day 2012 with coverage of the ‘Bahrain City Centre’ retail and leisure complex in central Manama. Meanwhile, Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) held a successful LTE trial in late-December 2011 at its Hamala headquarters, part of the latest phase of its network evolution project begun in mid-2010 with Swedish technology provider Ericsson, senior representatives of which were present at the trial.
Viva Bahrain’s CEO Ulaiyan Al Wetaid, quoted by Gulf Daily News, said of the limited-coverage LTE launch: ‘This further reinforces our position as the provider of the fastest broadband in Bahrain,’ referring to its existing 42Mbps Dual Carrier HSPA+ (DC-HSPA+) high speed mobile services. As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Viva Bahrain completed a nationwide rollout of DC-HSPA+ in November 2011, following the technology’s launch in May that year, and having entered the Bahraini 3G market in March 2010 over a commercial HSPA+ (21Mbps) network providing national coverage, which reached 97.2% of the population by mid-2011. Al Wetaid said that customers would be able to experience data speeds of up to 100Mbps with LTE, and added: ‘The new technology will come with its set of new broadband devices and packages that will provide more value for money for consumers and businesses… It is what the customer wants and looks forward to in the future… It will maximise productivity and increase and make the [end-user’s] business more nimble than ever before.’
GlobalComms adds that the country’s earliest mover in the LTE field, Zain Bahrain, is yet to announce a commercial launch date for the 4G technology, despite contracting Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) to deploy LTE radio and core infrastructure in October 2009; NSN successfully implemented a 70Mbps LTE test network for Zain within 30 days of signing the agreement and in March 2010 Zain demonstrated what it claimed was the Gulf region’s ‘first call’ over LTE at its Seef headquarters. In January 2011 Zain said it was ‘waiting for a right time to offer LTE at mass scale in Bahrain’.
Viva’s Bahrain LTE launch follows its sister cellco in Kuwait launching a commercial network based on the 4G technology in the final week of December 2011. Kuwait Telecommunication Company (Viva Kuwait) launched LTE services initially in selected central areas, and revealed plans to expand network coverage ‘in the near future to all areas.’