Possessing one of the smallest markets in the Middle East, Bahrain's telecoms market is arguably one the most developed. Early to liberalise its market, it is one of the most open in the region, underpinned by a relatively well-developed regulatory environment. To further promote fair competition an active regulator has implemented a number of decisions to improve network access and interconnection to the incumbent's network.
In contrast to other countries with high mobile penetration, the number of fixed lines in Bahrain is increasing due to infrastructure-based competition by WiMAX operators, which make up approximately a quarter of total fixed lines. Like most of its counterparts in the Gulf region, incumbent operator Batelco has expanded internationally in search of new growth opportunities.
Bahrain boasts high Internet penetration levels due to strong infrastructure-based competition; ADSL was once the dominant means of broadband access prior to widespread adoption of WiMAX and mobile broadband, but now accounts for only one in five broadband subscriptions. This figure is expected to fall further as mobile broadband penetration continues to grow.
Three network operators compete in the mobile market, which is made up predominantly of prepaid users. Subscriber numbers continue to show strong growth despite a highly-penetrated market, indicating multiple SIM card ownership. Bahrain was one of the first to introduce LTE in the Middle East, with all three operators utilising HSPA+ or LTE networks to underpin future revenue growth through take up of mobile, content and application services.