Bahrain reviews number portability

A policy to allow customers to keep phone numbers when switching operators could increase pressure on Batelco.

  • E-Mail
By  Reuters Published  August 19, 2007

Bahrain's telecoms watchdog said on Sunday it could introduce a policy to allow customers to keep their phone numbers when they switch operators, raising pressure on Batelco to cut prices and improve service.

Restrictions on mobile-number portability have prevented people from switching their phone service even if they are dissatisfied with prices or service, director of the Bahrain Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA) Alan Horne said.

"A high percentage of consumers would like to change their operator, but they're not prepared to do that unless they can keep their number," Horne said.

"One of the actions we're proposing is to allow the consumer to do that," he told reporters.

Batelco, or Bahrain Telecommunications Co., enjoyed a telecom monopoly in the smallest Gulf Arab economy until the sector was liberalised in 2004.

The firm's only significant competition in Bahrain is MTC-Vodafone Bahrain, an affiliate of Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co, which has about 30% of the island's mobile telecom market.

A TRA survey of telecom usage in Bahrain found there were still opportunities for growth in Bahrain, Horne said.

Forty-four percent of residential users were dissatisfied with their international call service mainly because they thought prices were too high.

Some 46% of businesses and 40% of residential consumers were also unhappy with the internet charges, the survey of 1,052 residential customers and 159 businesses found.

Thirty-one percent of fixed-line subscribers were dissatisfied with prices, the survey found.

"There is still a need to increase the consumer's awareness of the different alternative providers and for the take up of new innovative services," Horne said.

The regulator has exerted increasing pressure on Batelco to cut prices, including wholesale rates -- fees charged to rival operators for the use of Batelco's telecom network.

Batelco has criticised the regulator for introducing what it said were discriminatory pricing policies.

The regulator would make recommendations on number portability in a review to be published by the end of the month, Horne said.

Seeing limited growth at home, Batelco is expanding abroad, agreeing to buy a 20% stake in Yemen's Sabafon in March and winning one of three fixed-line licences in Saudi Arabia this year.

It is also eligible to bid for Qatar's second mobile phone licence.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code