MTC Vodafone wins Bahrain mobile licence

MTC has won the right to take on Batelco as the second mobile operator in Bahrain, giving its expansive regional strategy a major boost.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  April 21, 2003

MTC has won the right to take on Batelco as the second mobile operator in Bahrain, giving its expansive regional strategy a major boost.

The 20-year old Kuwaiti firm, which bid jointly with Vodafone to provide mobile services in the Kingdom, beat off competition from nine other contestants in the selection process. These were then wittled down in March to a shortlist consisting of MTC’s Kuwait rival Wataniya Telecom and a new venture, Kalaam Ltd.

The licence will officially be handed over to MTC on Tuesday, April 22. The company will then set up a new division, MTC Vodafone Bahrain, which will be 60% owned by MTC and 40% owned by Bahraini businessmen and investors.

Dr. Saad Al-Barrak, Director General of MTC said the move offered an “attractive opportunity”, despite Bahrain’s relatively small population of 700,000 people and high mobile penetration rate of around 56%. Batelco has also spent the last few months preparing for competition by streamlining its customer service operations and launching new services, such as wireless hotspots.

For MTC however, the move marks the latest step in its bid to become a major regional player. In January, it bought 96% of Jordan’s largest mobile operator Fastlink in a US$424 million deal.

“The services which MTC Vodafone Bahrain intends to make available will take the mobile market in Bahrain to new highs not seen elsewhere in the region. We are also committed to creating significant job opportunities to Bahrainis and training them in accordance with international best practice,” Dr Al-Barrak added. The company is expected to employ around 400 people, the majority of whom will be Bahrain nationals.

In a statement, Dr Mohammed Alghatam, chairman of Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said the move marked a “significant development not only in terms of the telecommunications sector, but also within the wider context of the liberalisation and… stimulus of the whole economy of the Kingdom.”

He also said that licences to operate in other areas of the sector would be awarded over the coming months, including the provision of internet services, VSAT satellite networks and international paging facilities.

“The TRA now invites operators and investors to consider the further business opportunities, in Bahrain, that follow upon the important step that has been taken today,” Dr Algatam said.

“The TRA should like to thank all ten organisations that applied for this licence. The applications were generally of a high quality, and the Kingdom of Bahrain has been fortunate in being able to choose from such a wide range of applicants,” he added.

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