By Muna Al Hashemi
Operators that transform their revenue models and focus on digital technologies will outperform the competition, says Muna Al Hashemi, CEO at Batelco Bahrain
The growing telecommunications market in the Middle East region is in the midst of a turning point.
During the last ten years, the market has enjoyed a penetration growth and profitability far above global averages, with an annual growth of 3.5 percent. The rapidly growing population, especially the youth segment, has allowed the telecom market in the MENA region to capture a mobile broadband subscriber base of over 1 billion, according to the latest report issued by industry experts McKinsey & Company.
If we review the ten year period from a business perspective, the financial crisis has slowed down the economy, not only in the Kingdom of Bahrain, but across the region. The continued slow economic growth was behind many businesses and corporations taking cautious business decisions in regards to investments and overall spending.
From Bahrain’s standpoint, the information and communications technology (ICT) sector’s liberal business policies and advanced infrastructure gives the kingdom the edge in the Middle East, both as a thriving domestic marketplace and as a base for accessing the growing regional market. ICT spending in the Middle East region grew by 6.6 percent, and in the GCC alone government and private sector ICT spending has reached $318bn in 2015, according to the EDB ICT report.
The ICT sector is burgeoning with potential opportunities for operators who are able to transform their revenue models and focus on new digital technologies that present revenue growth in areas such as content distribution, Internet of Things/Machine to Machine (IoT/M2M), e-commerce, mobile payments and big data along with digitising and modernising specific verticals such as health and education.
Batelco, as an innovative organisation has been continuously evolving as an ICT solutions provider and more recently as a driver of digitisation in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Undoubtedly the next chapter of telecommunications in the region, including Bahrain, will be defined by exploding data demand, both at a consumer and corporate level.
Specific sectors in the kingdom have shown very promising growth potential including tourism, hospitality, health and education which are all creating opportunities for those in the ICT industry.
In education there is a move to digitise learning to help elevate standards for students. Similarly the journey is starting to digitise health services to bring them in line with world standards.
The big range of Over the Top (OTT) communications and content options for consumers has accelerated a decline in traditional revenue streams for the telecom sector in Bahrain. Furthermore, with the telecom marketplace in Bahrain being very competitive, there is further pressure on operators in terms of overall pricing and profit margins.
On the other hand, the high mobile and internet penetration in Bahrain creates opportunities and, coupled with the kingdom’s position as a leading financial and service centre in the region, Bahrain is at a tipping point of further driving the growth of the ICT sector.
Our main goal in Batelco Bahrain is to elevate communication standards through being the leading integrator of digital solutions in Bahrain. Digital is Bahrain’s future and our economic future.
At Batelco, we already operate the most advanced digital network infrastructure and continuously roll out the latest innovations in products and services.
We have had many firsts in the kingdom, including announcing a partnership with Ericsson to explore 5G opportunities. There is so much potential to be captured by operators but it requires making smart investments in the core business of connectivity.
The growth engines of the industry are a digital ecosystem and innovative customer relationships, and these are the main reasons that Batelco Bahrain has re-engineered its strategy to focus on transforming the lives of people enabling them to connect, work and live better through the delivery of cutting-edge, technology-based products and solutions.
The end goal for Batelco Bahrain is to offer the full range of digital solutions for our customers; we will be taking the telecom industry in the kingdom to the next stage by addressing the market demands while pursuing a new value-creation model by focusing on digital transformation and building a profitable digital ecosystem.
Muna Al Hashemi, CEO at Batelco Bahrain