In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Shaima Al Hamed, chief commercial officer, Bahrain Network (BNET), shared details about the company’s objectives this year, its collaboration plans, core strategies and contributions to the growth and economic diversification of Bahrain’s telecom sector.
What are the targets you are focusing on in 2023, and how will these impact the company’s growth moving forward?
BNET always plans ahead and is making the necessary investments today to deliver the speed of broadband and network capacity that residential and business end-users will need to succeed in the digital world of tomorrow.
Accordingly, since BNET’s inception, it has established a separate (legal and functional) entity to develop an advanced fiber infrastructure in line with the government’s telecommunication policy to grow the Kingdom’s business sector and ensure greater connectivity.
BNET has several primary objectives for the fiber infrastructure roll-out. We currently connect 82.6% of residential properties and 100% of business addresses, and we aim to connect 95% of all households and 100% of businesses and public radio communication stations with access to affordable, reliable and secure ultra-fast broadband services (defined as downstream data rates of at least 100 Mbit/s to households and symmetric data rates of at least 1 Gbit/s to businesses and radio sites).
In addition, one of our main objectives is to publish the latest BNET reference offer (RO) as we collaborate hand in hand with the telecom industry and regulator to provide products and services at fair and reasonable prices. The new reference offer was designed through a customer-centric process, and we held an industry-wide event entitled RO (Reference Offer) Week, to which operators and the regulator were invited. During the event, BNET representatives provided in-depth information on the products and services offered by the company, as well as its prices and service levels. The feedback acquired from the industry assisted BNET in updating the reference offer.
The impact of these strategies will be reflected on our valued partners (Licensed Operators) where BNET will provide them with a reliable wholesale network, in addition to products with fair and reasonable prices and enhanced customer experience, with the purpose of contributing to the prosperity and growth of the Kingdom’s economy, using cutting-edge ICT and infrastructure technologies for prospective new businesses.
How does BNET collaborate with its partners to achieve better value for customers? Will you be working with any new partners this year?
The simple answer is to be entirely customer-oriented; in other words, everything we do revolves around our customers. Before undertaking any initiatives, we ask ourselves, “How will it benefit our customers? Will it enable them to develop their business? Will they be able to improve the experiences of their customers?” Demonstrably, our customer's success is tied to our own.
Furthermore, we have established a Market Intelligence department, responsible for exploring market needs, analyzing requirements and identifying areas where BNET can assist its customers in connecting the community. An example of this in action is our facilitation of high-rise building solutions, which enables licensed operators to provide broadband services to their customers.
BNET is also establishing relationships with international NBNs to exchange knowledge and expertise. This type of collaboration benefits our licensed operators as the insights collected improve our fiber roll-out, general service operations, and network capabilities.
Finally, BNET is expected to cooperate with new partners, as the company is focused on serving any operator that is granted a telecommunications license by the Telecommunication Regulation Authority (TRA).
What are the core strategies that BNET is using to provide accessible and reliable fiber connectivity at fair and reasonable prices?
BNET has several plans in place to support the company's core strategies, including:
- Providing reliable, resilient and secure products and services over our wholesale network and delivering them in an efficient manner.
- Collaborating as one team with our customers to ensure they feel cared for and have a positive view of BNET.
- Continuously investing in our network and our people in order to increase revenue and meet customer data demand.
- Instituting sustainability while ensuring that products and services are affordable and competitively priced.
In your opinion, how can BNET maximize its expertise in fiber broadband connectivity, coverage and security to meet customer needs?
As the fiber network wholesaler, BNET provides wholesale broadband services and related products to licensed operators on a non-discriminatory basis. This approach helps level the playing field in the telecommunications industry, enhancing competition and innovation while providing greater choice for customers across the Kingdom of Bahrain.
BNET operates in a competitive market; thus, the company must consider how it can ensure customers get the most out of the high-speed network, to which they connect through the licensed operators. It is important that we assist our user base in understanding the distinction in quality and service provision between BNET and other forms of internet, such as mobile broadband or microwave networks.
BNET’s network investment plan is to connect fiber into communities and extend its coverage. Fiber is designed and proven to deliver faster speeds with greater capacity, resulting in unparalleled customer experiences. BNET supports both licensed operators and end users to ensure that current and future customers have access to high-quality broadband over a fast, secure, and reliable network at a very competitive price.
How will BNET continue to contribute to the growth and economic diversification of the telecom sector in the country in a sustainable and profitable manner?
This can be realized through the provision of our products and services over an efficient, well-maintained network designed to meet the needs of the telecom industry.
Because of the constantly evolving digital space, consumer demand for telecommunications continues to rise. Several new types of applications require a considerable amount of network capacity as well; currently, new voice and messaging services are supplementing or replacing traditional telecommunications methods, which is causing a shift in telecoms’ business models and licenses.
Countries around the world are responding to these developments by prioritizing investment in high-speed infrastructure. They also are taking steps to ensure that their policies and regulatory frameworks reflect the new reality (and evolving architecture) of an integrated IT ecosystem that is dependent upon the availability of advanced fixed and mobile telecommunications networks. Policymakers are also placing a new emphasis on the training and development of ‘local talent’ such as skilled IT professionals, app and content developers, as well as internet entrepreneurs.
At BNET, we have already started this journey and are working on a variety of initiatives to assist the growth of the Kingdom’s telecom sector. The fiber roll-out program enabled BNET to connect fiber to 37,986 new residences, increasing the total number of fiber-connected addresses to 484,133. Annually, BNET is targeting to provide fiber access to thousands of new addresses.
BNET continues to strive for a higher customer satisfaction rate, which is measured yearly. In 2022, BNET achieved a 94% satisfaction rate, showcasing a significant increase from 82% in 2021. This KPI indicates that we are on the right track, and we continue to prioritize customer service, growth generation and product diversification.