August 28, 2008

Bahrain: Wireless Internet, Satellite TV Prove Unhappy Bedfellows

Text of report in English by Bahrain newspaper Gulf Daily News website on

Bahrain's Indian community is up-in-arms over satellite channels from home allegedly being blocked by internet signals, broadcast on the same frequency.

Hundreds of customers are cancelling Indian satellite subscriptions for at least 12 channels, because of the disruption, say service providers.

Government investigators say signals are being disrupted because Zain Bahrain and Mena Telecom are broadcasting broadband wireless internet services over the same frequency of the TV channels.

Bahrain's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) says the problem is a spill-over caused by Indian broadcasters using the same frequency that Bahrain uses for some of its telecommunications.

Transport ministry Wireless Licensing, Frequency and Monitoring director Hisham Khalifa bin Khalil told the GDN that the TRA and Zain Bahrain had refused to accept the directorate's findings of the source of interference.

"The TRA has provided a particular frequency to Zain and Mena Telecom to provide broadband wireless internet connection," said Mr Khalil. "But this frequency is almost the same for a number of Indian television channels. So people have been facing reception problems since last August, when Zain installed its towers.

"We used specialized equipment from the German company Rohde and Schwarz to determine the source that is interfering with the signal of the channels. But the TRA and Zain refuse to accept our findings and say the equipment is faulty. But we don't accept this, because almost all the Gulf countries use this company's equipment for this purpose, because it is one of the best in the global market.

"We have campaigned a lot with TRA and Zain but haven't reached a conclusion."

Mr Khalil said that as a result, his directorate was negotiating with the German company to set up a branch in Bahrain, to help monitor frequencies and interference.

"Once the company starts operations here, all the concerned parties will sit together and study the problem, find the source of interference and submit the findings," he said.

"We perform our job to eliminate interference in signal transmission, in the most transparent way. But I think they (telecom companies) don't want to accept our findings because if they do, it'll mean a huge loss to them."

TRA communications and consumer affairs director Dana Chehab told the GDN that there was a "spill-over" of telecommunications and television channel signals that causes the problem.

"We used to receive some unpaid Indian TV channels here but that does not mean that they are licensed to broadcast here," she said. "Such problems arise when two countries allocate the same frequency to a broadcast channel and a telecom service.

"In this case, India has provided the 3.6 [GHz] band for some of their TV channels, while the same band is being used by Bahrain too.

However Ms Chehab would not comment on Mr Khalil's claim that the TRA had refused to accept the directorate's findings, saying it was an "inside issue".

Gulf Satellite company manager Basheer Ambalayi said the company had been receiving an average of 50 complaints a day for nearly four months.

"We understand that a Bahrain telecommunications company shares almost the same frequency of these Indian TV channels.

"So wherever the telephone company installs a tower, people living a couple of hundred metres in its vicinity will experience an interference with their broadcast."

Al Belad Electronics and Satellite-Fixing Company manager Madhu Gopalakrishnan said that they had stopped accepting any orders to install satellite dishes to receive the Indian channels. "We are not accepting any more orders to fix satellites because it just means more trouble for us as well as the customers," he said.

"It has made a very negative impact on our business, but we have no choice. If this continues, then there will be no need for any satellite-fixing companies in Bahrain. The problem began a year ago and has become worse since the last four months."

Nashmi Satellite Channel company manager P R Venugopal said that despite promises from Zain Bahrain, the TRA and the Wireless Licensing, Frequency and Monitoring Directorate to rectify the problem, there had been no improvement in the situation.

"I understood that the problem was with Zain installing towers for its wireless internet connection and sent them a letter.

"They replied in writing that they didn't have the right person with them now to correct the problem and that they would bring someone from the US.

"But it's been months since the promise and still the problems are only getting worse.

Zain Bahrain networks director Essam Zainal said that he was not aware of Zain's signals interfering with any TV channels and that they are operating with a licensed frequency.

"We installed all the towers in a single go sometime in August. However, Mena Telecom, with whom we share almost the same frequency, has just recently begun installing their towers."

Originally published by Gulf Daily News website, Manama, in English 26 Aug 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Media. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.