Interview: Abdul Razak Jawahery
How has the landscape for internet service providers (ISPs) changed with the entrance of VIVA? What does increased competition mean for the market?
ABDUL RAZAK JAWAHERY: VIVA’s entry into the market has definitely increased competition and thereby provided for a healthier telecoms environment. With the presence of multiple operators, every ISP is delivering its best in terms of products and services. This provides added benefits for operators, consumers and the country as a whole, since it nourishes the economy and increases investment. The Kingdom of Bahrain has been highlighted in terms of technological advancement by being the first country in the Middle East to deploy a nationwide WiMAX 16e network, among many other “firsts”. WiMAX has greatly enhanced the way people connect to the internet. This network employs the dependability of cellular access (connectivity from anywhere within the service provider’s coverage area) and the convenience of Wi-Fi access (the fast speeds we are familiar with at home and in the office), combining the two to provide the ultimate online experience. We owe all this progress to the competition present in our telecoms sector.
What additional competitive pressures do you expect local loop unbundling (LLU) to have on the broadband market?
JAWAHERY: LLU, which was brought forward by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), provides advantages to the market and affords consumers a wider range of options when selecting their preferred ISP. However, from Menatelecom’s perspective, WiMAX networks do not require any dependency on the incumbent operator since Menatelecom maintains its own isolated wireless network that is extended to all customers within the Kingdom of Bahrain. The wireless signal can reach every corner of the island and does not require cables to operate. We are of the believe that LLU is a complimentary rather than a competitive product. We are eager to see the launch of LLU on the network and the further innovation of product bundles.
How are the private sector and the government working together on pricing for both corporate and individual consumers?
JAWAHERY: Telecoms companies in the private sector follow specific regulatory schemes and guidelines when it comes to pricing their products and services. These guidelines are set by the TRA. The TRA takes into consideration the needs of both the consumers and the operators by providing benefits and protection when it comes to pricing. This curtails price wars, price fixing, predatory pricing or any unfair action that may harm the healthy competition we currently have.
What is to be expected by way of investments from other licensed operators (OLOs) in the future?
JAWAHERY: OLOs will invest for the benefit of the industry if they expect healthy returns. Regulatory development, such as the TRA’s decision to allow access to independent international capacity through the International Falcon Connection (IFC) product, encourages investment. If regulatory practices such as Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) come into effect in Bahrain, this will complement the existing regulation that allows the new OLOs to use the incumbent mobile infrastructure. This ensures that minimal investment is required for new players in the field.
Will the limited amount of Arabic content on the internet affect the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in the region?
JAWAHERY: In my view, the lack of Arabic language content is not an unscalable barrier for further ICT development in the region. Many public forums that discuss the latest developments in the mobile and internet arena are Arabised. These sites are multilingual and are often primarily in Arabic. Translation services are freely available and easy to use and can translate entire websites relatively accurately. As education is on the rise, younger generations have higher levels of English language competency and greater familiarity with ICT.
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