Bahrain sets its telecoms liberalization blueprint
Bahrain’s recently enacted telecom law sets the final liberalization timeline for the communications sector in the country. The market is anticipated to be fully competitive in 2004. The establishment of an independent regulator is expected to initiate the liberalization process.
The government of Bahrain issued a new telecom law in October 2002. The law stipulates the opening up of the communications market in Bahrain to other companies and ends Batelco’s current monopoly.
A new report released to the Arab Advisors Group’s Strategic Research Service states that the Bahrain communications market will be fully liberalized by 2004. The GSM and the Internet markets are the first segments to open up for competition. The Bahrain Internet and Datacomm Landscape Report 2002 revealed that the Internet access revenues for the year 2001 stood at $ 21 million, contributing around four percent of Batelco’s total revenues.
The Arab Advisors Group projects Bahrain’s GSM subscriber base to reach 625,000 in 2006, a penetration rate of 77 percent. In addition, the Telecommunication Regulatory Bureau of Bahrain will be financially and managerially independent. The bureau will be in charge of solving disputes between operators and also between the operators and agents. It will also be responsible for the granting of any new license and setting up the conditions and responsibilities of any new entrant, reported Arab Advisors Group’s analyst, Hala Baqain.
“With the Bahraini communications market approaching a period of competition and liberalization, a strong regulator that is attuned to its roles and responsibilities is surely needed in the market. Proper competition requires a regulatory body that will spot any anti-competitive practices or unwarranted cross subsidies and act against them.” Baqain added.
Multiple national fixed, ILD, VSAT, paging and radio trunking licenses will be granted after January 1, 2004. “The highlight of the liberalization of the Cellular segment in Bahrain involves the possibility of granting one or more Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) licenses.” Baqain noted.
The law stipulates competition-enabling issues that are quite progressive and new to the Gulf region. Such issues include number portability, which is entitled to all users of voice services, fixed and cellular. The term Number Portability” means the ability of users of telecommunications services to retain, at the same location, existing telecommunications numbers without impairment of quality, reliability, or convenience when switching from one telecommunications carrier to another.
Another privilege that is granted to users is the freedom to chose the service provider, this will entitle a subscriber to one network to chose a service from another network that it has an interconnection agreement with.
The Arab Advisors Group’s team of analysts in the region has already produced more than 135 reports on the Arab World’s communications markets. To date, Arab Advisors Group has served more than 60 global and regional companies by providing research analysis and forecasts of Arab communications markets to these clients. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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