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Batelco and TRA clash over broadband services

TRA defends its position after Batelco accuses regulator of limiting broadband services

Batelco and Bahrain’s TRA have clashed over the introduction and pricing of high speed broadband services, with both sides blaming each other for a lack of such services.

The argument started yesterday after Batelco issued a press release blaming the TRA for Bahrain’s lack of high speed broadband internet access.

The operator alleged that the TRA had failed to grant approval to introduce lower prices and higher speeds since December 2008. “It seems Bahrain is destined to wait a lot longer to enjoy lower prices and higher speed residential broadband services,” Batelco said in a statement.

The company added that it was able to provide internet access to home users at speeds of up to 10MB per second and with a 50% price reduction, but that a lack of approval from the TRA was preventing it from launching such services.

“It is extremely disappointing that the TRA refuses to approve lower prices and higher speeds despite significant investment, over BD22 million ($58.35 million), in Bahrain’s fixed network,” said Peter Kaliaropoulos, CEO, Batelco.

“The TRA continues to apply harsh, unfair and unreasonable regulatory measures against Batelco resulting in significant delays and rejection of innovative new products and services that could otherwise be introduced into the market for the greater benefit of Bahrain and its citizens,” he added.

But the TRA countered the accusations, claiming that it would be anti-competitive to allow Batelco to offer the high speed services at the prices it had suggested.

“The availability of appropriately priced competitive higher speed broadband services remains a key priority for TRA,” said Alan Horne, general director of the TRA. “However price proposals must not be anti-competitive.

“In approving prices TRA must ensure the promotion of sustainable competition for the long term benefit of the Kingdom and the compliance with legal and regulatory obligations.”

The TRA also suggested that Batelco had tried to “circumvent the regulatory process and to mislead the general public.”

Horne said that Batelco had been in a position to offer higher speed broadband services for more than a year but had “chosen not to do so”, and added that by international standards, the prices proposed by Batelco for higher speed services – speeds in excess of 2Mb – where competition has yet to be developed, were excessive.

“Where competition exists in the lower speeds (2Mb and below) the proposed retail prices are below those sustainable in the market given the current equivalent wholesale service charges; and no cost based wholesale products have been proposed by Batelco for the higher speed services which would allow companies that do have an access infrastructure to compete,” the TRA statement added.