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Batelco in talks to trial 6G technology in Bahrain

6G tech Yuliia Kaveshnikova/Alamy via Reuters Connect
Bahrain's youthful population and extensive coverage means it has a high mobile phone penetration rate
  • Bahrain’s 5G coverage is at 95%
  • Discussions with tech companies
  • Rollout anticipated in the 2030s

Bahrain telecommunications giant Batelco is in talks to trial 6th generation (6G) connectivity as the kingdom attempts to cement its position as a technological leader in the region.

The island kingdom is among the first countries to have a comprehensive 5G network coverage in most urban areas, with more than 95 percent coverage courtesy of major providers Batelco, Saudi Arabia’s STC and Kuwait’s Zain.

In 2017 Batelco completed the first 5G trial and in 2019 the company launched its 5G network.

“We are in talks to see what 6G looks like,” Maitham Abdulla, CEO of Batelco, told AGBI in an exclusive interview.

He revealed tentative discussions have taken place with tech companies Nokia, Huawei and Ericsson.

The technology is still in the research and development phase, with an expected rollout in the 2030s. “Once the time comes for trials, we’ll hopefully be one of the leaders,” he said.

The 6G connection, the sixth generation of wireless communication systems, is said to be 100 times faster than its 5G equivalent. It will bring improvements in voice communication and virtual reality.

6G will also benefit emerging technologies such as smart cities, driverless cars and augmented reality and is expected to lead to a boom in the artificial intelligence industry.

The 6G market size was valued at just over $5 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow by 34.8 percent through to 2030, reaching more than $281 billion, according to Maximize Market Research. 

In 2022 a four-year strategy was launched to push ahead with digitalising the Bahraini economy.

The 2022-26 Telecommunications, Information Technology and Digital Economy Strategy was launched in line with the objectives of the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery plan.

With its young population and extensive coverage, Bahrain’s take-up rate is high. Overall there were 2.4 million mobile phone subscribers in Bahrain by the end of Q4 last year, with a mobile penetration rate of 153 percent.

In terms of broadband subscribers, there were almost 2.5 million subscribers, with a 158 percent penetration.

Beyon Group, the parent company of Batelco, is investing more than $250 million in new infrastructure to support Bahrain’s digital transformation.

Last year the group joined the Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 6 (SEA-ME-WE 6) consortium, which is building a 21,700km-long undersea telecommunications cable from Marseille in France to Singapore. The cable will connect Bahrain’s 1.5 million population with 14 other countries.

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