x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Bahrain closing down 2Connect

The Bahrain telecoms operator 2Connect is appealing against a decision by the local regulator to suspend its services due to unspecified 'security concerns'.

The Bahraini telecommunications operator 2Connect is appealing against a decision by the local regulator to halt its services because of unspecified "security concerns".

Bahrain's telecommunications regulatory authority (TRA) said on Monday it would "permanently" terminate 2Connect's ability to provide services.

Ibrahim Sharif, the head of the opposition party Wa'ad, was an early shareholder in 2Connect. Mr Sharif was among several anti-government activists arrested late last week amid protests in Manama, the Bahraini capital. Bahrain's commercial registry lists Mr Sharif as a founder and director of 2Connect, according to Reuters.

However, Fahad al Shirawi, the chief executive of 2Connect, says Mr Sharif was not the founder of the company.

"He is a shareholder. He used to be on the board of directors but resigned last year," Mr al Shirawi told The National.

He said the company was mainly Saudi-owned.

"It's not Ibrahim's company, it's my company. Between me and the Saudi investors we own 80 per cent of the company," he said. "[Mr Sharif] was one of the earliest investors, but not the founder."

Mr al Shirawi also claimed Mr Sharif had shares in another of Bahrain's telecoms companies.

He confirmed the justification given to the company for the revocation of the licence was unspecified security reasons. He said it was not made clear to him which government agency had raised concerns.

"We are not a threat to security," Mr al Shirawi said. "We are more than happy to co-operate with the security organs.

"We do not feel that a revocation of the licence is appropriate … I am appealing it."

Mohammed Mahmood, the technical and operations director at the TRA, confirmed that 2Connect's licence would be revoked on Sunday for "security reasons".

Mr Mahmood said the TRA had not been informed of a specific security threat.

"Security organisations … are not telling us anything else," he said.

Ahmed Aldoseri, the TRA's director of information and communications technologies, said on Monday that 2Connect consumers should seek other providers before the services of 2Connect were discontinued.

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae