Regulator hits Batelco with US$13m fine

Bahrain's incumbent telco accused of withholding access to submarine cable "to the detriment of Bahraini citizens, businesses and the economy"

Tags: BahrainBatelco Middle East Company
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Regulator hits Batelco with US$13m fine The fine of $13.3 million is the largest ever issued by Bahrain's TRA.
By  George Bevir Published  November 25, 2009

Bahrain's telecom regulator has hit the country's incumbent operator Batelco with a fine of BD 5 million (US$13.3 million) as an ongoing dispute over access to a submarine cable landing station escalates.

In a statement released yesterday Bahrain's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said Batelco was obliged to allow WiMAX operator Mena Telecom to purchase international capacity and directly connect with the cable, which is housed in Batelco premises.

When the TRA first announced its intention to fine Batelco in September this year, the operator issued a stern response, accusing the regulator of "seeking to arbitrarily change a commercial contract" between the submarine cable provider and Batelco.

TRA director general, Alan Horne, said there had been no movement since the warning was issued two months ago.

He said: "Direct access to the international capacity of the FALCON submarine cable system has been identified as a key issue for the further development of competition within the telecommunications sector and the Kingdom's economy.

"The ability of Bahrain to offer better value international and broadband internet services has been impacted. TRA considers the actions of Batelco have been to the detriment of Bahraini citizens, businesses and the economy."

Horne said the order would give Mena Telecom the ability to connect directly to international circuits, which he said would result in the growth of internet usage, an increase in speeds and a decrease in prices.

The TRA said the fine will increase by BD100,000 ($265,000) each calendar day that Batelco does not comply with the due date, in 30 days. The fine will be reduced by the same amount for each working day that Batelco provides the services in advance of the due date.

A spokeswoman for Batelco said the operator would issue a response later today.

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