Bahrain set to get triple play

Batelco is overhauling its ageing network infrastructure to bring triple play services – voice, video and data traffic – to all households in Bahrain. The telco will this week announce it has signed an agreement with networking giant Cisco to implement an IP/MPLS (multi protocol label switching) infrastructure across the Kingdom.

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By  Peter Branton Published  June 19, 2005

Batelco is overhauling its ageing network infrastructure to bring triple play services – voice, video and data traffic – to all households in Bahrain. The telco will this week announce it has signed an agreement with networking giant Cisco to implement an IP/MPLS (multi protocol label switching) infrastructure across the Kingdom. The move is part of a US$50 million-plus project to introduce next-generation network (NGN) technology to Bahrain. Similar to the 21st Century Network project being undertaken by British Telecom in the UK, the project will see over 200,000 households and businesses in Bahrain connected to the network over the next three years. “The aim is to transform our network from the old legacy system to one that is based on NGN,” said Ebrahim Zainal, general manager, Batelco Networks. “Together with Cisco, we have an ambitious plan to have broadband in every house in Bahrain,” he added. Currently, broadband penetration in Bahrain stands at around 10%, with somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 households connected, Zainal said. The rollout of the new network will begin in the next couple of weeks, Zainal said, with the aim being to have the core of the network and around 80% of the outer edge completed by the end of this year. The rest of the network will be deployed over the next three years, depending on demand, he said. “For our customers, this means that we can offer them much higher speeds and much better services,” Zainal said. The new network will also keep Bahrain at the cutting edge of technology and would be a positive step for the country, he claimed. “If we don’t do this we risk falling behind. Also, some of the network was ageing, so it is probably time to renew anyway.” Batelco and Cisco have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the delivery of the IP/MPLS infrastructure. “Batelco has already standardised on Cisco when it comes to their IP/MPLS infrastructure, Metro Ethernet access, corporate network and the internet platform,” said Sam Alkharrat, general manager for Cisco Systems Gulf Region. “This demonstrates Batelco’s strategic vision to pioneer innovative communication services using advanced IP technologies from Cisco. We are pleased to implement the third phase of this initiative, which marks another leadership position for Batelco in the region.” IP/MPLS technology allows data traffic to be moved faster over the network and provides better quality of service than older network technology. The development of triple play, which brings voice, data and video services over the fixed line telecoms infrastructure, is currently attracting attention from telcos globally, with operators in the UK, Italy and the US all pioneering projects. By offering completely converged services, the end user can be given a range of products payable on one bill. Telecom Italia, for instance, offers a cordless phone facility with access to its broadband, thereby offering a VoIP (voice over IP) product that has comparable mobility features to cellular services in urban areas. In some areas, operators are even experimenting with ‘quadruple play’ services, providing voice, internet, video and electricity services in one package. Zainal said that pricing for the new services is yet to be set by Batelco. “We have made a lot of assumptions in the business plan but no actual tariffs as yet, the price of broadband is coming down anyway, so it’s very hard to say,” he claimed.

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