Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) yesterday launched the kingdom’s first commercial 4G LTE mobile service, using the 1800MHz frequency band. Initially, customers wishing to use the new 4G network must visit the Batelco City Centre retail store to sign up for a post-paid LTE SIM card for use with smartphones, tablets or USB dongles. At launch the operator is offering three LTE-ready smartphones, the Samsung I9305 Galaxy S III (exclusive in Bahrain), Nokia Lumia 920 and Nokia Lumia 820. Three 4G voice/data/device post-paid packages are on offer for monthly rental of BHD20 (USD52.75), BHD30 or BHD50, with inclusive data of 2GB/4GB/4GB (with both 4GB packages also including various other allowances including voice minutes and SMS), all with a free smartphone and free unlimited Samm3ni music downloads; contracts are at least twelve months. Batelco also launched standalone 4G mobile data packages ranging from 2GB for BHD10 up to 50GB for BHD35 (again for post-paid customers only).
While the initial 4G coverage footprint was not announced, Batelco Bahrain CEO Rashid Abdulla said that the operator would expand services ‘through a series of rollouts, beginning immediately,’ whilst all 4G subscribers receive 3G coverage when out of 4G zones. Batelco consumer division general manager Muna Al Hashimi added, ‘In the coming days and weeks, our customers will experience a range of LTE compatible devices including routers and tablets.’ TeleGeography says that Batelco and its rivals Zain, Viva and soon-to-be TD-LTE operator Menatelecom are expecting to receive additional 4G frequencies in an auction scheduled for the end of March, including the 2600MHz and 1800MHz bands. Previously, Viva launched a live demonstration LTE network covering the City Centre complex, while Zain has long been technically ready to roll out LTE services, but the cellcos have been waiting for the additional frequencies to expand into the commercial market.