Seef District: The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) on Wednesday announced that it was lifting regulatory obligations from Batelco following the TRA’s latest review.
The TRA has released its final decisions on its latest reviews of competition in the retail market for international outgoing calls from Bahrain, and the retail markets for access to call services including domestic calls from fixed locations.
TRA’s reviews concluded that the retail market for international outgoing calls from Bahrain, and the retail market for mass-market access to call services including domestic calls from a fixed location are competitive. Therefore, TRA has decided to remove the regulatory obligations that applied to Batelco in relation to these two markets. However, Batelco will continue to be regulated in the retail market for premium access to call services including domestic calls from a fixed location, as this market was not found to be effectively competitive and Batelco was found to have Significant Market Power.
“It is important for TRA to review telecommunications markets on a regular basis, and to only retain some form of regulation in those markets which lack competition. The purpose of these market reviews is to assess whether effective competition has emerged, and where needed, to apply regulatory measures that will stimulate a more dynamic and efficient sector that continues to deliver benefits to consumers and businesses,” said, Mr. Mohamed Bubashait, TRA’s General Director.
“Regulations will be lifted on two of the three retail markets that have been reviewed. In such retail markets, Batelco will now have greater flexibility to compete and innovate. However, in the third market, which is the retail market for premium access to call services including domestic calls from a fixed location, regulation will be maintained. This means that the only form of regulation that will remain at retail level in Bahrain will solely apply to business services, which represents 11% of the total sector revenues in 2014,” added, Mr. Bubashait.
TRA last reviewed these markets in the 2008, as reported in the 2008 SMP Determination. Since then, there have been a number of important market developments which have led to competitive alternatives emerging, most notably the increased competition from mobile services.
The latest market indicators show that most domestic calls are made using mobile services. Mobile subscriptions have grown by 40% since 2010 and are accounting for 90% of all combined fixed and mobile subscriptions at the end of 2015. Accordingly, the vast majority of calls in Bahrain originate on mobile networks, accounting for 94% of total domestic call traffic at the end of 2014. Regarding the international outgoing calls, the average price per minute for international calls has fallen by 68% since 2008. Total international outbound call minutes have more than tripled since 2008, increasing from 953 million minutes in 2008 to 3.4 billion minutes in 2014.
The final decisions just released follow a consultation process with interested parties on draft determinations issued in December 2015. Batelco, Viva, Zain, Menatelecom and Kalaam all submitted comments in February 2016, which were taken into consideration by the Authority in its final decisions.