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Broadband's future 'bright'.


BROADBAND will become cheaper, quicker and more accessible in the kingdom over the next three years, according to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

The declaration came at the opening of the Middle East's first International Institute of Communications (IIC) Telecommunications and Media Forum hosted by TRA yesterday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Manama.

The two-day event is being held under the theme Building Digital Broadband for the Future: Market and Policy Implications.

Participants will examine the economic and social impact of information and communications technology and the media.

They will also discuss the policy implications of building high-speed broadband and the role of regulation in promoting national broadband development. Bahrain has already spent heavily on its broadband infrastructure, even becoming one of the first countries in the world to launch a nationwide WiMAX network in 2007, said TRA general director Alan Horne.

He said that Bahrain must continue this kind of investment if it wishes to maintain its position as a regional financial player.

"It really is absolutely vital to continue this expansion (of digital broadband infrastructure), it's the lifeblood and arteries of the economy," he told the GDN.

"I suppose in order to continue our development, we've got to have these broader highways on and off the island - there's no point having highways off the island unless we have broadband communications so it is a vital base for growth in the economy."

Mr Horne said that such was the significance of maintaining an up-to-date broadband network that could link investment into infrastructure with a 30 times return to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

"It really can't be overstated, if you invest BD1 million into infrastructure, the indirect benefits are a BD30m addition to Bahrain's GDP - so it's a significant impact," he said.

Companies like Zain, Saudi Telecom Company and France Telecom have already started investing in Bahrain on the back of the framework. Other companies in the industry such as Cisco have decided to base their regional headquarters in Bahrain - all this despite the looming financial crisis, added Mr Horne.

"All of the investment we've seen has been by private sector companies and it hasn't been difficult to encourage them because we've created the environment which gives them confidence," said Mr Horne.

"When Bahrain is such an easy place to do business in and it is still improving, then it acts as a good base for the whole region."

Central to this idea of expanding digital broadband in the region are some of the projects which the TRA are involved in, which include fibre optic cabling and increased investment in undersea cabling.


"We've got to increase the international capacity. We're encouraging investment in undersea cabling and new landing stations and are working with Batelco to make increased international connectivity available at lower prices - these are all of critical importance," said Mr Horne.

On a national level, the TRA is focusing on introducing greater and fairer competition, which Mr Horne hopes will be transferred to customers in the form of higher speeds and lower prices.

"We've got to make sure there's greater and fairer competition in broadband and in a big way, the customer needs to understand there's a choice between providers," he said.

"As a result customers will see higher speeds, lower prices for international connectivity and a greater choice of provider and deal.

"One of our concerns is that the government is the biggest buyer and it must understand its needs and go out with a competitive tender."

The forum meets thrice a year in different locations, including Brussels, Belgium and Washington DC.

Leading communication organisations and experts come together from around the globe to discuss the major issues and trends affecting regulation and public policy, markets, society and technology.

Copyright 2009 Gulf Daily News

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:May 6, 2009
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