Batelco embarks on EDGE roll-out

Batelco has recruited Ericsson to upgrade its mobile network to EDGE.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  July 5, 2004

Batelco has embarked on an upgrade of its mobile network to EDGE but has played down the possibility that it will launch UMTS in the near future. The Bahraini telco has handed a US$20 million project to Ericsson to supply the EDGE solution, alongside improvements to its MMS, OSS and network management systems. It also plans to expand its mobile network to provide capacity for 550,000 users. The EDGE implementation will allow Batelco to speed up its existing mobile services, rather than forming a pre-cursor to UMTS roll-out, the operator says. “We’re keeping a watching brief on 3G,” says Ian Dench, Batelco’s GM, marketing. “We’ll look at new technology when the applications are well advanced, the demand is there and the handsets are widely available,” he adds. While sluggish handset supply has also proved a barrier to EDGE uptake, it is expected to improve by the time the project is completed later this year. “The handset situation is starting to improve,” says Sam Saba, Ericsson’s Middle East VP. “More volumes will come in during H2,” he adds. Batelco is preparing to expand its mobile data services this year, alongside the EDGE upgrade. The operator will shortly announce a supplier for GPRS-enabled SIM cards for laptops, Dench says. It also extended GPRS and MMS services recently to its prepaid subscriber base. In addition, Batelco’s deployment of wireless hotspots is gathering pace. “We currently have hotspots at Manama airport, Costa Coffee outlets and several hotels and roll-out will continue this year,” says Dench. “We’re looking to allow roaming and to [enable] our internet customers to put hotspot usage on their accounts,” he adds.

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