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GSR-14 Opening Speech

GSR-14 Opening Speech
H.E. Sheikh Fawaz Bin Mohamed Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Minister of State for Communications, Bahrain

عربي

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen.

Welcome to Bahrain, and welcome to the GSR14 symposium. On behalf of all the parties that have made this event possible, I hope that the next three days are a rewarding and educational experience for all delegates, press and visitors alike. We're honoured to have you all here and hope you enjoy your visit to our country.

We are privileged to have the support of the Prime Minister, His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa who has agreed to become Patron of this event.

Having the Prime Minister grace us with his Patronage for GSR14 not only demonstrates the symposium's importance on regional and global levels, but also underlines just how vital the Telecommunications and ICT sector is considered to be by the Bahraini Government. No doubt this is a sentiment shared by the respective Governments' TRAs that are represented here. This importance is also reflected in the headline theme of this event: 'Maximising the Potential of the Digital World'.

What must also be recognised, of course, is that the highest standards of telecommunications regulation are absolutely imperative to allow service providers to bring their products to market with the minimum of fuss.  The market must be given the appropriate amount of nurture and direction to ensure that it thrives.

Bahrain is a small country, but we have the highest telecommunications infrastructure index in the Middle East. This is one of the things that makes us a viable host for GSR14.  We see ourselves as a beacon for how a properly-regulated telecoms and ICT market can bear great fruit both in terms of service provision, and revenue generation.

The financial figures that our market produces – collated by the TRA from Bahrain's service providers – bear this out. By the end of 2013 we had a total of 2.21 million mobile telephone subscriptions, a penetration rate of 173%, with 4G available throughout the country. Broadband subscriptions at the same time numbered 1.63 million, a penetration rate of 123%. At the same time, fixed-line penetration has fallen to just 20% and 251,000 subscribers – one of those unusual situations where fewer telephones demonstrate a market's growing maturity.

Bahrain's telecoms and ICT sector contributes annual revenues of over half-a-billion dinars ($1.236 billion) directly to the economy. Based on the Bahraini GDP in 2013 of $32.8 billion, the revenue generated by the telecoms and ICT industry represents 4% of total GDP – a massively significant percentage, greater than the figure might suggest at first.

This represents the direct contribution that this sector makes to the economy, but this is obviously dwarfed by the benefits that Bahraini businesses achieve from having access to a fast, modern and reliable telecoms and ICT infrastructure. The benefits may be unquantifiable, but are nothing less than priceless. And this, I feel, is undoubtedly the case for the respective countries represented here.

As our market matures and becomes more technically advanced, it has been possible to keep prices competitive and, in some cases, see prices fall. The strong regulatory environment has made this possible, as well increased consumer choice and improved quality of service through effective and fair competition. Again, this is a common goal for all regulatory bodies.

What brings us together for this symposium is the fact that information, and the speed and quantity with which it flows, has basically become a commodity. As telecoms and ICT regulators, we are responsible – to a greater or lesser extent – for that commodity in numerous ways. This can range from helping provide the platform for a mobile phone customer to send a text message, through to the deployment of new communications satellites into orbit.

It is hoped that over the next three days, through speeches, seminars, workshops and networking, that we can discover new regulatory methods, enhance existing ones, and implement them. The overall aim being to provide the best possible service at the keenest possible price for the consumer, from the man in the street to the telecoms and ICT needs of the multinational companies that help fire all our economies.

Thank you for listening.