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Batelco welcomes relaxation of mobile pricing policy

Removal of prior approval by telecom regulatory authority as Bahrain prepares for entry of third mobile operator

Batelco welcomes relaxation of mobile pricing policy
Batelco CEO Gert Rieder described the change as "welcome" and "overdue".

Bahrain's incumbent operator Batelco today welcomed a relaxation of the rules governing the fixing of mobile tariffs, as the Kingdom gears up for the entry of a third mobile operator.

Under regulations announced by the country's telecom regulatory authority (TRA) yesterday, Batelco will be able to set retail prices without seeking prior approval.

Batelco has lobbied for the past one and a half years for removal of the 30-day notice period required by the TRA for new tariffs and adjustments to existing offers, and CEO Gert Rieder described the change as "overdue" and "very welcome".

"We anticipate that the level of competitive activity will intensify and that mobile penetration will increase even further than present," he said. "The good news for customers is that they will benefit from more frequent offers and innovations."

Residents of Bahrain are currently served by two mobile operators, Batelco and Zain. The launch of a third operator, Viva, is imminent with the STC-backed operator currently allowing Bahrainis to pre-register a mobile number.

TRA's chairman and acting director general, Dr Mohamed Al Amer, described the tariff reform as "another major milestone in the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector for the Kingdom of Bahrain".

"With the level of competition increasing in the mobile sector and other market segments it is important that Batelco has adequate flexibility to compete on a level playing field with Zain and soon also with Viva," he said.

The TRA pointed out that Batelco will still need to comply with specific tariff controls, such as "no margin squeeze, no predatory pricing, and no excessive pricing".

It added that the relaxation of the controls on mobile and international calls to certain destinations means that approximately 50% of Batelco's retail revenues will now be de-regulated and subject only to general competition law provisions.

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