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Mena Telecom forges WiMAX deal with Motorola

Bahrain's alternative telecoms provider signs contract with Motorola to plan wireless network in the kingdom.

Bahrain alternative telecoms service provider Mena Telecom has signed a contract with Motorola to plan, deploy and manage a wireless network in the kingdom.

Delivery of the equipment for a nationwide 802.16e-based mobile WiMAX and IMS service is expected to commence immediately with the launch of commercial services expected to take place before the end of the year.

Mena Telecom, which already provides international call services as well as two-way satellite access, was awarded one of two national fixed wireless broadband licences last year at a cost of US$13 million and in the first phase of the rollout, a full range of services is expected to be made available from Manama to the Seef area. In the second phase, coverage will be extended to other areas in Bahrain by March 2008. Incumbent mobile operator MTC Bahrain was awarded the other fixed wireless broadband licence.

"Given the infrastructure MTC already has in place, we expect the operator to introduce WiMAX into the market first," commented Abdulhakeem Al Khayyat, chairman of Mena Telecom and general manager of Kuwait Finance House. "But the time difference between their launch and ours will only be a couple of months at most, and we will enter the market with an offering that has never before been seen here," Al Khayyat added.

Mena Telecom is looking to become a full service provider of voice and data, with a view to appealing to both business and individual consumers.

"There is a perfect partnership fit between Mena Telecom and Motorola,"
commented Eric Pradier, Motorola's VP for services in the EMEA region. "The view of the Mena Telecom chairman is a clear and focussed one, and I believe we will continue to see nationwide deployments of WiMAX elsewhere in the region," he added.

Al Khayyat considers Mena Telecom's development of a nationwide WiMAX network in Bahrain as the start of what he hopes will develop into a regional investment opportunity as the company seeks further opportunities in other markets.

"First we need to become known as a company that is interested in expansion," Al Khayyat said. "I believe our position in this regard would be to have a higher risk profile than other operators in the investments we enter, perhaps going into markets other investors do not want."

Mena Telecom has not entered the due diligence phase for any investments at this time, but Al Khayyat did say that talks have been held that may materialise into deals in the months ahead.

With respect to the opportunity in the domestic market, Al Khayyat points to the fact that there are currently 120,000 students in Bahrain alone, with technology being placed at the centre of their education. "The ITC sector is a hot cake in the GCC region. Technology is addictive and as penetration levels rise, opportunities for the whole economy also grow," Al Khayyat pointed out.