The Fourth National Telecommunications Plan of the Kingdom of Bahrain (Fourth NTP), was approved by Prime Ministerial Edict No. 29/2016 on 8 May 2016. The Fourth NTP sets out guidelines for the telecoms sector for the next three years and seeks to affirm and advance Bahrain’s position as the most diverse and advanced telecommunications market within the GCC.
That position was underlined in August 2016 by the announcement that the Kingdom had achieved a global ranking of 11th place in the Telecommunications sub-index of the 2016 edition of the e-Government Development Index (EGDI), published by the United Nations (an improvement of 15 places on the 2014 indexes). This ranking also evidenced the successful efforts of the Bahraini legislature to promote and encourage investment and technological advancement in the telecommunications sector for the benefits of its citizens and the business community.
The importance of the telecommunications sector to Bahrain’s economy can also be seen from the financial results released at the end of July 2016 by the Bahrain Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. They reveal that Bahrain’s telecom sector revenues reached BD 450 million (US $1.193 billion) in 2015, a growth of 4.7% compared with BD 430 million in 2014.
The Fourth NTP Plan looks to build on this position of strength and to firmly establish Bahrain as one of the most developed countries in the world in the fields of technology and international telecommunications. Central to this objective is the implementation of the National Broadband Network providing high-speed fibre-optic services which will enable the telecommunications sector to be able to effectively adapt and respond to the rapid pace of technological developments. The National Broadband Network will involve the laying of fibre optic cable to all homes, schools and businesses, thereby providing a country-wide high-speed broadband network. Pronouncements from the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications suggest that the plan is to establish the Network within the next three to five years.
The Fourth NTP also aims to make Bahrain a regional centre for information and communications technology through the presence of able and skilled “local talent” and to attract investment and support for entrepreneurs in the field of information and communications technology. In this regard Bahrain is well-placed. The telecommunications sector employs some 3200 individuals in Bahrain, with Bahrainis representing 68% of that figure. The Fourth NTP represents a positive step by the Bahrain Government to build on one of Bahrain’s areas of economic strength and is consistent with the objectives of the Economic Vision 2030. For those looking to invest in Bahrain, the Fourth NTP should be regarded as a positive indicator that the Bahrain Government remains committed to enabling businesses of all types by mandating connection to high speed internet networks throughout the Kingdom.