Bahrain Telecom (Batelco) has suspended plans to implement a long-term evolution (LTE) network infrastructure due to lack of investment. In June 2010, Batelco announced a $38m investment plan to upgrade its mobile network to LTE, which would give customers in Bahrain mobile broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits a second (Mbps)
Instead the mobile operator awarded China’s ZTE Corporation a contract to provide second- and third-generation (2G and 3G) wireless solutions on 10 December. The group framework agreement is intended to improve Batelco’s services and to help reduce its capital and operating expenditure.
“Batelco has been struggling with investment issues which is why we have not upgraded to LTE. We have plans to launch an LTE network, but this has been suspended until further revenue realisation from our product portfolio.” says Hussain Wahab, Batelco’s head of value-added services (VAS) & content.
The operator is focusing on VAS to generate more revenues out of its current 3G network. This includes content, social networking and messaging services. This year voice revenues accounted for 65 per cent of total revenues, but in 2013 the operator expects this to decrease to 53 per cent with data revenues rising to 40 per cent.
The company is likely to offer LTE coverage in a few hotspots over the coming year in a bid to keep up with the increasing competition in Bahrain, namely Saudi Telecoms Company (STC) subsidiary Viva, which entered the market in January 2010.
In October 2010, Batelco Group chief executive officer, Peter Kaliaropoulos, announced that the company had paid off $500m of debt and would be looking to acquire telcos in emerging markets.
Batelco has operations in Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and India with more than 7.5 million mobile subscribers.