Freedom call

Liberalised telecoms markets represent an opportunity for new market entrants to offer fresh services.

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By  Adrian Bridgwater Published  May 24, 2008

It would also favour the opportunity for different cable systems to be meshed up together and provide each other with an additional degree of protection.

"Deregulation in Jordan has led to new operators emerging and more choices being made available to users. However there is a huge contrast between Jordan's open market and the situation found in several other countries in the region where deregulation is slow but starting to have an impact and long-standing monopolies are beginning to turn into duopolies. The surge in mobile and broadband penetration will undoubtedly occur along with new services and application models. This will influence the regional telecom landscape, leading to a greater convergence of services," said Susnik.

Liberalisation is win-win

Research company IDC says that as liberalisation spreads, regional carrier groups are emerging with wider mobile coverage maps.

For example, Zain has launched a 'one network' plan, offering users across four countries discounted rates for intra-regional communication.

This is a perfect example of how region-wide liberalisation is bringing benefits to the consumers.

It's also a win-win, since a common regional brand greatly facilitates an operator's various branding and marketing efforts.

"GCC markets still experience high mobile average revenue per user, which is good for the carriers. While the consumer might benefit from price cuts, however, operators don't want to get drawn into competing primarily on price. With mobile penetration progressing far beyond 100%, you can't use new subscribers to drive revenue. What's left is service differentiation - operators need to offer more services in more areas. So far we have seen limited efforts to launch and promote mobile data packages, but there's still a long way to go in terms of value-added services," said research analyst Deepika Mital of IDC Middle East.

IDC also says that carriers aren't the only factor. Regulators have to foster healthy competition and encourage carriers to pass the rewards on to their customers.

Take for instance the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), whose price control policy restricts competition in terms of prices.

This has left customers with no real choice in terms of cheaper tariffs, while alternate operators are left without a competitive tool.

On the other hand, the Bahraini TRA is now set to relax some more regulations to increase competition.

"Since opening up to competition in July 2004 the market in Bahrain has flourished with a host of new services available to customers at more competitive rates. In 2006 Batelco launched BD10 Broadband, the best value internet package in the region putting web access within the range of thousands of new customers in Bahrain. In 2007 alone we rolled out 196 new product/service promotions, including a permanent reduction in IDD call rates to GCC countries and 50% off all business Internet charges, which has proven very popular," said Batelco chief executive officer, Peter Kaliaropoulos.

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