Bahrain at ‘Forefront of Liberalisation’ of Telecom Sector

September 08, 2014

Bahrain has been at the forefront of liberalisation of the telecommunications sector among the Arab countries, according to a recent report.

The World Bank report, entitled ‘Broadband Networks in the Middle East and North Africa; Accelerating High-Speed Internet Access,’ studied the status of broadband services and infrastructure across the Mena region.
It examined the competitive and regulatory environments in the Mena countries, and emphasises the need to promote competitive markets in order to stimulate demand for value-added services and to drive future broadband development.
Across the region, only Bahrain and Jordan have implemented a policy of full liberalisation in telecommunications, and Bahrain is the only country in the region to have adopted a market structure and regulatory model similar to the European Union (EU), said the report.
Bahrain is the only Mena country which has reached the mature stage in fixed and mobile broadband market development, it said.
The price of broadband services plays a critical role in terms of broadband diffusion, said the report.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), broadband penetration grows rapidly after the level of retail broadband price falls below three to five per cent of average monthly income.
Based on the report, Bahrain prices expressed as a percentage of GNI are below the threshold.
Dr Mohammed Alamer, chairman of the TRA, said: “These observations by the World Bank are consistent with the authority’s recent market assessments which have refined the scope of the regulatory framework in Bahrain.
“In 2014, the authority found the residential/SME broadband market to be competitive due to increasing competition between DSL, Wimax, and mobile broadband services, and as a result, the regulatory obligations that had been imposed on Batelco were removed.  This has provided greater flexibility to Batelco in terms of its retail and wholesale broadband services, which has resulted in significant enhancements to DSL broadband offers in Bahrain.”
“We are committed to continue in this mission to promote competitive and efficient markets through investing in our people to develop a professional, passionate team; transparency and fairness in operations; and adherence to quality assurance,” he said.
The World Bank acknowledged that Batelco has faced increasing infrastructure-based competition in the supply of fixed broadband services, as a result of Wimax-based competitors, resulting in a reduction in Batelco’s market share of fixed broadband subscriptions to less than 30 per cent.
Mobile broadband has also grown strongly, with Bahrain having the highest mobile broadband penetration in the Mena region, it said.
The report also refered to competition in the supply of international connectivity into Bahrain, both in terms of terrestrial and submarine cables.
Bahrain enjoys competition in international submarine cable connectivity, and has the highest submarine cable design capacity per capita in the Mena region, it said..
Mohammed Bubashait, general director, TRA, said: “We are delighted that international organisations such as the World Bank continue to recognise the steps that have been taken in Bahrain to stimulate competitive markets. It is an honour that the liberalisation path and the model adopted by the authority is being regarded by the World Bank as an example to be followed, which is what the government’s vision aims at, among other things.
“We would like to express our deep thanks and appreciation to the government for their significant attention to the sector which has a direct impact on the national economy. As part of the authority’s mission is to continue to build as an exemplar regulator within the region, we are pleased to see the achievement of this mission.”
Source: TradeArabia News Service
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