Interview: Mohammed Ahmed Al Amer

What is the overall objective of the third National Telecommunications Plan (NTP) and what is the timeframe for its implementation?

MOHAMMED AHMED AL AMER: The goal of the NTP is to ensure that the telecommunications sector continues to play a key role in stimulating and enabling economic and social development in Bahrain. Improvements in infrastructure and regulation will enable the delivery of more advanced services through the provision of the cutting-edge technologies to consumers and businesses, as well as attracting investment and fostering innovation in the wider ICT sector to create high-quality jobs and further build upon Bahrain’s knowledge-based economy.

The NTP will cover the period from 2012-14, though it contains policy directions to assure the long-term future of the sector, in addition to building on the previous achievements of the first two plans.

How have operators and customers benefitted from mobile number portability (MNP)? What impact has the MNP had on the industry?

AL AMER: MNP has brought about increased choice of services and has empowered customers, as well as reducing costs and working to eliminate inconveniences for organisations wishing to change service providers while keeping the same numbers. For operators, MNP is removing barriers to fair competition and helping the market develop, as operators have to be more creative in their product offerings to build loyalty and attract new subscribers. Some 22,000 individual consumers and businesses have used the service since July 2011.

Can you outline the main points of the new national broadband policy? How does this policy shape and define the future of the broadband market?

AL AMER: The creation of a national broadband network (NBN) is a main focus of the NTP, and the plan recommends this should be done as soon as possible, and in the most economic way for the benefit of Bahrain. Security and reliability are also key factors for consideration in the implementation of the NBN. Access to the network for operators will be completely fair and open, allowing consumers to benefit from increased competition among providers.

Together with other elements of the NTP, such as covering access to international telecommunications links and further liberalisation of the market, the NBN will transform the landscape of the ICT sector, allowing markets to develop in the delivery of services for communication, entertainment, education and health – among others – that will make a marked difference to the quality of life for individuals in Bahrain.

To what extent does the national broadband policy address both the speed and price of broadband?

AL AMER: The NTP highlights our target for delivery of at least 100 Mbits per second for residential and 1 Gbit per second for business premises through the NBN. This is to enable access to a full range of high-quality fast broadband services. The NTP calls for affordable services to be made available to all that require them, and, through policies that ensure the protection of consumer rights and increased competition in the market, that fast broadband should be available at prices comparable with those in leading countries.

What role does the regulatory function in Bahrain play in helping to promote the Kingdom as a regional telecoms and IT centre?

AL AMER: The TRA has been recognised for its fair and transparent approach, which has created a highly competitive and attractive telecommunications market.

The authority has won a number of awards, most recently the “Most Progressive Regulator of the Year 2011” award from the South Asia, Middle East and North Africa Telecommunications Council for the second time. The TRA will continue to work to stimulate the telecommunications market in Bahrain to enhance the competitiveness of the Kingdom in the global economy, as well as protecting the interests of consumers.