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Bahrain TRA completes market review

Changes for Bahrain telecom market include introduction of third mobile operator, local loop unbundling and creation of competition guidelines

Bahrain's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has completed its review of the country's communications market, and issued details of a package of measures to promote competition and the interests of consumers.

The Final Statement of the review lists nine measures that are intended to encourage competition and growth in the telecoms market in Bahrain, along with a timetable for implementation.

Among the measure proposed are Local Loop Unbundling (LLU), which would give other operators access to Batelco's ‘last mile' to encourage competition in voice and broadband markets; the introduction of carrier pre-selection, so that consumers can chose the lowest cost route for a call on a call by call basis; and number portability for fixed and mobile so that consumers can change provider and keep their numbers.

The report confirms that a third mobile network operator will be introduced, although the operator must be ‘infrastructure based', rather than operating on the Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) model. The TRA says it will encourage infrastructure sharing between the existing operators and new entrant to facilitate this.

The kingdom's National Fixed Wireless Service operators will no longer be restricted from offering mobility restrictions services, to increase competition.

Batelco will no longer have to seek tariff approval from the TRA for mobile services and for fixed international calls to selected markets. The TRA will also overhaul retail regulation to allow Batelco to set tariffs within set guidelines rather than have to seek approval in markets where it has Significant Market Power (SMP), which is intended to speed up pricing procedures and create a more level playing field for competition.

The TRA will also develop longer term competition guidelines to replace retail regulation, and continue with its remit to collect and share data on the market.

The review process was initiated in August 2007, and included consultation with interested parties in February this year.

Dr Alexandre Serot, chief economist of the TRA and the project manager of the Strategic and Retail Market Review commented: "The implementation of the Strategic and Retail Market Review will move the telecommunications market in the Kingdom of Bahrain to a next major stage in the development of the telecommunications industry that will further promote competition and benefit consumers.

"The next step after issuing our final statement is the implementation phase. TRA has already started the development of some elements of the regulatory package such as number portability, the selection of the third mobile network operator and the reform of the retail price control framework," he added.

The general director of the TRA, Alan Horne said: "In the implementation stage we will design the measures announced in order to achieve the best balance between enhancing competition and consumer welfare on the one hand and necessity not to unduly overburden market players on the other. If necessary and in order to ensure that we achieve the best possible result from these regulatory actions, we are minded to consider financing some of the centrally incurred costs of some measures from the proceeds of auctions or similar revenues subject to necessary approvals and consultation."

The complete Final Statement can be viewed here.

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