Bahrain's 4G auction further delayed by dispute

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An auction to sell radio spectrum for next-generation telecom networks in Bahrain has been further delayed until at least April 17 amid a dispute between a wireless broadband operator and the country's telecoms regulator.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) was due to auction 12 lots of spectrum primarily for long-term evolution (LTE), or 4G, networks from March 31 and the winners were expected to be announced in mid-April.

But it said in a statement that it had counter appealed an appeal by menatelecom which was excluded from the auction. The regulator added that its counter appeal would be heard by the court on April 17.

The spectrum auction was originally open to all bidders, potentially allowing new entrants into an already crowded market.

The three mobile operators - Bahrain Telecommunications Co (Batelco), Kuwait's Zain and Viva Bahrain, an affiliate of Saudi Telecom Co - all opposed this and they appeared to get their wish when the TRA last month issued a notice saying the government had decided to limit the auction to this trio.

But menatelecom, a subsidiary of Islamic bank Kuwait Finance House, has filed three related cases in Bahraini courts which appeal against this decision.

Bahrain's 1.3m population is also served by about 10 Internet providers in arguably the most liberalised telecoms market in the Gulf.

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