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Bahrain surges forward with 5G innovation hub ambitions

Twilight over Bahrain

The Kingdom of Bahrain has announced itself onto the global 5G stage, claiming to be one of the first countries globally to provide commercial 5G services by June 2019.

Bahrain has not exactly been thumping its chest with rhetoric and bold statements to date, but Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications, Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed now claims preparations for the rollout of 5G networks are finished, with the only missing piece of the puzzle being the availability of consumer handsets and equipment.

“Bahrain’s state of readiness is a testament to the leadership of the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain in enabling the implementation of cutting-edge technology and promoting innovation, and the continuous support of all stakeholders including the TRA and the national Spectrum Strategy & Coordination Committee (SSCC), all of which serves to highlight the Kingdom’s continued role as a regional leader in telecommunications and ICT,” the Minister stated.

The regulatory hurdles have been cleared, while licensing and spectrum allocation set to be finalised by mid-April, operators are already well on the way to rolling out the relevant infrastructure. Whether this actually means nationwide geographical coverage remains to be seen, but the country is gearing itself up to claim the title of one of the 5G leaders.

There might be a few who would scoff at the idea of Bahrain taking the lead in the 5G race, but it should come as little surprise. Bahrain has ranked first in the Arab region in the ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI) for the last five years, and 4th globally in the UN’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Index (TII). The Bahrain Government might not have been making too much noise over the last couple of years, but it is in a strong position.

In June last year, successful commercial trials for 5G were completed, while the National Broadband Network (NBN) has ensured fibre connectivity is spread throughout the nation. By the end of 2019, the Government plans to reach 95% of households and 100% of businesses. While this does support the development of other usecases, the side benefit of having suitable backhaul infrastructure supports the 5G ambitions also.

Although it is relatively unfeasible Bahrain will be able to use these foundations to dominate the global technology economy, it could prove to be an incredibly useful resource in attracting new businesses. Like San Marino, another nation state which will experience 5G before the vast-majority, Bahrain could position itself as a test bed for numerous different segments, from autonomous vehicles to virtual reality. The right foundations are certainly in place.

As it stands, Bahrain is in an enviable position. The red-tape has been suitably ordered, the networks are almost ready, it just needs the launch of more consumer devices. How many countries can say that?

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