Tag Archives | STC

Internet Pricing in the GCC

Every once in a while I hear someone commenting about the Internet in Bahrain: it is too slow, too expensive, not unlimited etc… They tend to compare it to one of our neighbors usually the UAE and/or Saudi Arabia. I would usually leave it at that since I have no first hand experience about the Internet in any other country of the GCC except Bahrain of course (neither do the complainers!).

From the comfort of my chair I can't really judge the quality of the Internet being provided in the countries around me. However, I can definitely compare the price. Here is a compilation of prices of what I believe are the largest (and sometimes the only) networks in each GCC country. The criteria I chose was to find the subscription price of 1Mbps or cheapest package (such as variable speeds of 3G networks). Question marks on data cap mean that the web site did not provide information on data cap or FUP (Fair Usage Policy). Price monthly unless otherwise specified. Exchange rates at the time of publishing provided by Wolfram Alpha

Bahrain Providers
Provider DL Speed Data Cap Technology Price (Local) Price ($)
Batelco 1Mbps 4GB DSL BHD12 31.84
Zain 1Mbps Unlimited WiMAX BHD10 26.53
Viva Up to 42Mbps 3GB 3G BHD5 13.26
Lightspeed 1Mbps 4GB DSL BHD10 26.53
Saudi Arabia Providers
Provider DL Speed Data Cap Technology Price (Local) Price ($)
STC Up to 1Mbps Unlimited DSL SAR199 53.06
Mobily 1Mbps ? WiMAX SAR169 45.06
GO Telecom Up to 1Mbps Unlimited WiMAX SAR175 46.66
Shabakah 1Mbps Unlimited DSL SAR80 21.33
Qatar Providers
Provider DL Speed Data Cap Technology Price (Local) Price ($)
Qtel 1Mbps Unlimited DSL QAR200 54.95
UAE Providers
Provider DL Speed Data Cap Technology Price (Local) Price ($)
Etisalat 1Mbps Unlimited DSL AED249 67.82
du 1Mbps Shaped? DSL AED249 67.82
Kuwait Providers
Provider DL Speed Data Cap Technology Price (Local) Price ($)
KEMS 1Mbps Unlimited DSL KWD10 36.11
Fasttelco 1Mbps ? DSL KWD81/year 292.5/year
Qualitynet 1Mbps ? DSL KWD26/3 months 93.88/3 months
Oman Providers
Provider DL Speed Data Cap Technology Price (Local) Price ($)
Omantel 2Mbps Unlimited DSL OMR20 51.96
Nawras 1Mbps 6GB WiMAX OMR14 36.38

Conclusion: Bahrain's Internet seems to be the cheapest in the region, unless the numbers are wrong. But, providers in Bahrain usually come with data caps (except Zain). The Internet is "freer" in Bahrain: TONS of sites blocked in Saudi, UAE blocking VoIP, prepayment of months in advance etc… After looking over these prices I am now quite grateful that I can get affordable Internet, but of course the data caps are still an issue :-P! Plus, a new competitor is entering the Bahraini market ;-).

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Better Internet is (Hopefully) Coming

Bahrain, and the rest of the Gulf countries could very soon be experiencing faster and most importantly affordable Internet. A marine cable laid by a company known as Gulf Bridge International (GBI) is finally complete, and is technically live and ready (as of 19th Feb, 2012). It connects the countries in the Gulf region: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar (GBI's HQ), UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Iran and Iraq. Furthermore it then connects to countries outside the Gulf for international connectivity, Italy (Europe, eastern US) and India (Asia, western US). Right now it can carry 5.8 terabits PER SECOND and its design supports 10Tbps!

gbics 300x134 Better Internet is (Hopefully) Coming



In Bahrain, GBI has partnered with Batelco to manage the landing station. There should be no worry with Batelco disputing access to the cable (as it once did with FLAG), since many providers are now connecting through Viva's wholesale services (connectivity through STC's vast international providers) that is managing GBI's landing station in Saudi Arabia (as STC).

How soon should we expect to see faster Internet? With LTE (up to 100Mbps) being commercially deployed around April by Viva and probably soon after by Batelco and so on, so hopefully in that time range. Fingers crossed Bahraini providers (Zain an exception) give up transfer caps!

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Menatelecom (Slightly) Increases Allocation

Not sure when this happened, as I just noticed this morning when my Menatelecom data transfer reset. Seems like those subscribed to the 2Mbps/21GB/Internet only package have had their transfer amount boosted to 25GB. I’m not sure if and how the other packages have been affected.

I’m guessing the addition of STC and FLAG have contributed in lowering their costs and increasing their infrastructure capabilities. Not to mention becoming the 2nd largest ISP in Bahrain according to this press release.

Hoping for more improvements in the future, the market is truly becoming competitive!


Viva Bahrain Review: SIM Pickup

Today morning I had decided to go and collect my Viva SIM card from the closest outlet to home, Al Jazira supermarket, Zinj. The Viva website mentioned that their branch there is open 7 days a week from 9am to 9pm, perfect.

I left home just under 10 minutes to 9am, its really close, and especially today being a Friday (weekend here), I was practically the only person on the road! I got there at 9am sharp. I wasn't expecting to be the first person in line, so I prepared mentally for the hugest queue in the world!

As I walked in I read the A4 paper signs, they were "Gold and Silver Regestration Only" (yes with the spelling mistake) and "Ladies Only" (I think with correct spelling). The "Gold and Silver" had around 5 people in queue, no ladies, and the 3rd queue was signless and long, so I guessed I had to stand on this one (probability that most people opted to book a free number, so more people in line = free numbers line).

Unfortunately it seemed liked they were still not open yet, I heard that sometimes they open on time, some times a while late, other times a full hour late etc… I stood on the same spot until around 10am, when finally it seemed like people were starting to move (since the area is small, the queue went around a wall, so I never had a clear view of the counter, and I wasn't ready to lose my place!!!). But I think people decided to get a drink or something (since it's inside the supermarket) and the queue appeared shorter…

A while later I could definitely notice that the queue was starting to move and people were getting their SIMs since I had seen some people pass by with the little Viva "wallet" and of course a smile in their faces like so :-D!

The supermarket's security started asking us in queue if we had reserved a book prior since the queue was different. I was one of those that had booked online during their pre-launch promo. My queue was "Gold and Silver Regestration"… Couldn't they had made it clearer…? Anyways I didn't complain, that queue was much much shorter than the one I was in! Deceivingly…

To cut the story short, the people who hadn't reserved numbers were moving quick, the guy in front of me had picked his SIM way before me. It seems like the flaw is in their registration system, it is simply toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww… Yes I had to add all those letters to let you know how slow it is…

As a person who has already booked, here are the steps taken:

  1. Give them your CPR number. Some typing, I noticed my name being typed along with my CPR digits.
  2. Give them your details, I was asked for address, phone and job (I shouldv'e said something like quality control manager at STC (the parent company) or something!!).
  3. Steps 1 and 2 if successful takes around 5 minutes.
  4. The system will try and search your booked number for approximately 5 minutes or more. I assumed it was this, since no typing, data input or questions occurred from the time my details were last entered until I was told what my booked number was. Let's say 5 minutes best for this.
  5. Finally, a receipt is printed out, your Viva "wallet" is scanned, you pay BD2 (free number, theoretically it is free since you get BD2 in credit), sign a form and you think it is all over when…
  6. Your CPR needs to be scanned! Ok, in the mean time the next customer comes and the system is accessing his data (at least they are trying to speed up the process in whatever possible way they can!). This scan took around 3 minutes!
  7. You are technically done! You get out of the outlet, smiling, with your new Viva number and of course the "wallet"!

Was it worth it getting it a week only after launch? Well I had nothing else to do and was bored, standing in line reminded me of my school days and trips to airports such as Heathrow (where queues are long, but at least it moves!).

I will get another review up with the initial setup after getting your SIM (don't worry its much easier than SIM pickup day :-P).

Your Viva "wallet"  contains(it is not really called a wallet, its the first thing that came to my mind when I saw it flipping open…):

  • SIM card embedded in a credit card like card. You need to break it off.
  • The main card has your PINs and PUKs so, DO NOT THROW IT AWAY!
  • A little guide to your Viva prepaid service, small booklet.

I might add a picture of it later so you guys see what I mean ;-).