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Broadband, mobile rates fall in Bahrain

Manama, March 20, 2013

The fixed broadband prices in Bahrain have fallen by up to 53 per cent between 2011 and 2012 while mobile prices dropped by up to 30 per cent, revealed a new study by the kingdom's telecom watchdog.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Bahrain (TRA) in its report pointed out that the competition and a sound regulatory framework in the Kingdom continued to deliver benefits to consumers.

The study found that mobile prices in Bahrain compared well with GCC and Arab averages but remained consistently above that of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

According to TRA, the tariffs have fallen by up to 41 per cent since 2008 when the regulator decided to allow a third mobile operator to enter Bahrain.

Fixed broadband prices have fallen by up to 71pc since 2008. For the low speed and mid speed baskets, Bahrain is now one of the cheapest GCC and Arab countries, said the TRA in its retail price benchmarking study of telecommunications services in Arab countries.

With regard to the high speed basket (more than 15 Mb/s), TRA pointed out that despite price reductions in 2012, the fixed broadband in Bahrain remained relatively expensive compared to other GCC countries (particularly residential prices).

However, the study said mobile broadband prices in Bahrain fell by up to 63 per cent between 2011 and 2012 thus making the Kingdom one of the cheapest in mobile broadband sector in GCC and Arab countries.

Bahrain also compared well with the OECD in this category, the report added.

TRA said it expected faster and new services from the auction of additional spectrum planned next month.

"Although Bahrain compares well with other Arab and OECD countries (low baskets) in terms of the cost of a basket of fixed voice services, calling revenues still represents a significant portion of the fixed line cost, suggesting that retail rates are not rebalanced," the study stated..

Fixed voice tariffs in Bahrain have been static in nominal terms for all users in the last five updates, it added.

The finding that leased line tariffs have not changed over the last four years indicates that competitive pressures in the market have been less intense.

TRA said it has sought to address this during 2012 through the introduction of better retail prices for a new type of leased lines and through the introduction a new regulated wholesale local access service, which should enable other operators to compete more effectively in the supply of retail leased line services to end users.

Commenting on the results, TRA chairman Dr Mohammed Al Amer said: "It is obvious from the study that competition is continuing to deliver benefits to consumers through a variety of services and increasingly competitive prices which is resulting in increased uptake and penetration rates of the services."

"This is perhaps most clearly evident in the price reductions and dramatic growth seen in mobile broadband services in Bahrain over 2011-2012," noted Dr Al Amer.

As of June 2012, the mobile penetration rate surged to 160 per cent compared to 130 per cent in 2008, the year of the first benchmarking report. The number of mobile subscriptions was 1.9 million, he added.

The TRA chief poited out that the number of broadband subscribers had risen to 413,000, representing a penetration rate of 34 per cent compared to 10 per cent in 2008.

"Between 2007 and 2011 the percentage of Internet users as a share of total population grew from 53 to 77 per cent," he stated.

"It is encouraging to see that measures taken by TRA to open up and liberalise the supply of services are achieving competitive outcomes for consumers in Bahrain, with the study showing significant price reductions over the last four years in those markets where new entry has occurred," said Dr Al Amer.

"It is also encouraging to see Bahrain performing well when compared with other GCC countries, Arab countries and with the OECD in some benchmarks," he added.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Telecom | TRA | broadband | growth |

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