I AM a Bahraini gentleman and have been a loyal Batelco customer for a very long time. I subscribed to its domestic broadband package around five years ago for BD10 per month.
I am compelled to write this after suffering silently all these years. The downloading speed is so painfully slow, and the monthly bandwidth of 2GB gets eaten up quickly by my younger family members playing online, that the speed I have has always been close to dial-up that I thought I had left behind when I upgraded to broadband.
I have recently returned after having lived for two years in the UK, and have had a taste of what broadband really should be like. I was a customer of Virgin Media broadband in London, and for just their fibre optic broadband connection of 10MB per second, unlimited downloading and uploading, I paid £16 every month for the first three months, and then £21 monthly for the rest of nine months to complete the 12-month contract for £237 (BD140 in one year, amounting to BD11.670 per month).
On top of this, Virgin Media supplied their broadband router hub with all security features pre-installed, free of charge. At one time I experienced problems with the broadband router, and Virgin Media sent a replacement in 48 hours for free, with an apology letter and they did not charge me for the two days that I was offline.
All of the price details that I have given here can be verified on Virgin Media's
Another ISP in the UK, TalkTalk, offers broadband and phone lines at a slightly cheaper price, again with free wireless routers thrown in for customers.
Batelco, why in heaven's name must loyal customers like me suffer so slow speeds? Compared to what I am paying here, and what I paid for in London, I am plainly and in all honesty not getting any value for my money here. Websites take minutes to load in Isa Town, whereas in London, I would have been unlucky if I had to wait for more than five seconds for the same multimedia rich website to fully load on the screen. PlayStation 3 hardware or software updates took just a few minutes to complete online in London, whereas here connected to Batelco, I must keep the PlayStation 3 connected by wire and left on throughout the night for the update to download.
A 700MB video file would download and be ready for me in 15 to 30 minutes in London, whereas in Bahrain, it needs at least 20 to 24 hours to download.
After I have given my experiences of both the UK and Bahrain, I simply ask Batelco to justify the painfully low and slow speeds that I must endure, everyday, when the ISP TalkTalk in the UK offers blazing speeds at the same price, with free weekend calls to landlines and some free mobile minutes as well. What have residents like me in Bahrain done to deserve all this pain and suffering at BD10 (£17) per month?
I have always read high claims of "value for money" and "customer friendliness" but intelligent customers in Bahrain are just not convinced with empty words and unimpressive broadband speeds.
I don't know why the TRA and Bahrain Internet Society have not urged providers to get serious about customers. Are they not about promoting the rights and interests of telecom customers and consumers?
I would like Batelco to actually give this letter a real and honest response. Why must Batelco not be compared to Virgin Media, TalkTalk, etc?
If Bahrain is the Middle East leader in telecom services, then why is Internet speeds not going up, instead of lagging in the medieval dark ages?
Even ISPs in broken countries in Asia and Africa give much faster Internet speeds at their local price equivalent of BD10 per month, so why not here?
Disappointed at Batelco
A BATELCO spokeswomen said: "Many thanks for your valuable comments. Please note that each market has its own characteristics and features that differentiate it from others. Batelco has invested millions of dinars to provide world class services for Bahrain and our Internet services and packages are upgraded regularly to keep pace with changing demands.
"Batelco continuously invests in its network infrastructure to improve and enhance the quality delivered to the end users. It has fully revamped broadband packages twice this year offering more speeds and usage for the same prices in its efforts to maintain its position offering the most value for money for residents of Bahrain.
"We suggest that this customer look at the range of packages available on our Batelco.com website. For only BD2 extra per month (ie, BD12), the customer can increase his download capacity from 1MB to 3MB, double his threshold from 2GB to 4GB and also increase the throttled speed from 512kbps to 1.5Mbps. There are currently seven packages to choose from."