By George Bevir
The fact that STC was only operator to bid for Bahrain’s 3rd mobile licence didn't surprise telecom experts.
The announcement by Bahrain’s regulator that the Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC) was the only operator to submit a bid for the country’s third mobile licence did not surprise those involved in the telecoms industry in the tiny island kingdom.
Bahrain has a mobile penetration rate of 148%, according to Arab Advisors, and it seems as though the three unidentified bidders that dropped out of the running decided it would simply be too tricky to squeeze any further value out of the market.
But with many Saudi nationals traveling across the King Fahd Causeway to Bahrain for work and pleasure, bidding for the licence makes sense for STC, which will see it as a useful extension to its operation in Saudi Arabia.
Rather than consider the 720,000 residents of Bahrain as a standalone market, it may make sense for STC to count Bahrain as part of its overall business case for Saudi Arabia.
Despite being the only bidder, STC’s application will still be subject to the TRA’s licensing process and it is not guaranteed to be awarded the licence. However, with 60 million subscribers spread across six countries the Saudi telco fits the profile of an accomplished international operator that the regulator in Bahrain wanted as Bahrain’s third mobile operator.
But the fact that STC was the only operator to bid for the licence could be bad news for the TRA’s coffers when the financial round of the application concludes on 22nd January. After all, how much would you offer for something if you knew that you were the only person who wanted to buy it?