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Tue 25 May 2004 04:00 AM

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MTC-Vodafone plans 3G expansion

The MTC-Vodafone partnership is looking to ramp up its 3G service in Bahrain by expanding its coverage and increasing the availability of compatible handsets.

The MTC-Vodafone partnership is looking to ramp up its 3G service in Bahrain by expanding WCDMA coverage and increasing the availability of compatible handsets.

The two operators are also currently discussing a deal which would see the consortium purchasing Vodafone-branded 3G handsets from Europe.

This would help meet demand for WCDMA-capable devices following the launch of MTC-Vodafone’s 3G network in December 2003.

“Many 3G phones are being bought from Dubai and Europe,” Khaled Al Farkh, COO of MTC-Vodafone Bahrain, tells CommsMEA.

The purchase of branded handsets would also allow the partnership, which enables MTC to leverage Vodafone’s brand and marketing expertise in return for a share of revenues, to benefit from the global operator’s ability to secure higher quotas from manufacturers of handsets.

MTC-Vodafone may also use the customised handsets to more effectively direct consumers to its mobile data content and services available via Vodafone’s successful mobile portal, Vodafone Live!

“Using the handsets makes sense because mobile operators need to start partnering with manufacturers for customised phones, but GCC operators are too small to negotiate those deals,” says Mohsen Malaki, senior telecoms analyst at research group, IDC CEMA.

MTC-Vodafone Bahrain currently offers mobile data services through its own portal, MTC Wow!, but is considering adoption of more content from Vodafone Live!

“We are seriously looking at the Vodafone Live! portfolio of services,” says Al Farkh.

The move also reflects MTC’s plans to develop its 3G service as a serious revenue stream.

Al Farkh says that the operator is planning to expand the network in Bahrain over the next six months.

Currently, MTC-Vodafone only has five sites in the Kingdom covered by WCDMA, but has asked Nokia and Siemens, its equipment vendors, to submit proposals that would extend the network nationwide.

“We have 100% coverage with EDGE and are considering doing the same with WCDMA,” Al Farkh adds.

Also in the offing is an expansion of MTC’s 3G services to new territories.

The operator’s plan is to transfer 3G from Bahrain to its other markets, once regulations and the level of demand for high-end services allow.

“The question is not if, it is when,” says Al Farkh. “We are very happy with the technology and uptake in the market in Bahrain,” he adds.

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