Telecommunications Overseer Sends Warning to Bahraini Telecom Companies

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in Bahrain has sent stern warnings to two of the largest providers of mobile phone service to consumers in Bahrain, saying that their pricing for international mobile phone calls was “detrimental to competition and bad for consumers.”

Investigating Users’ Complaints

In statements sent by email to Bahrain Telecommunications Co. (Batelco) and to the Saudi Telecom Company, the TRA said that it has been investigating several complaints from users who accused these two companies of “abusing their dominance in the international mobile telecommunications market, therefore breaching the conditions of competition which the law provides for.”

The TRA is waiting for a response from these two companies before they issue a final decision regarding the issue.

Response Needed by October 13

According to a spokesman for the TRA, Abdulelah Abdulla, “Batelco and Viva (Saudi Telecom) will have until October 13 to respond to our notice.”

The destinations whose pricing is in question include calls to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Philippines.

There are three main licensed mobile phone operators in Bahrain; Batelco, STC Bahrain (which controls the Viva brand); and MTC Vodafone Bahrain. There are several other smaller companies with their own licenses to provide international prepaid phone calls.

“TRA believes that such pricing destroys the market’s forces and hinders competition between operators by reducing the opportunities for fair competition in the market, and harms the interests of consumers in the long run,” explained the overseeing body in a statement.

“Batelco has been informed of this decision and is in the process of making a detailed submission to the TRA outlining reasons why we believe we acted fairly and consistent with the regulatory and competitive laws of the Kingdom,” said Rashid Abdulla, the chief executive officer of Batelco Bahrain in an emailed statement. “We look forward to the opportunity to outline our case to the TRA and we are confident we will receive a fair hearing.”

There was no equivalent statement, or comment of any kind, issued from STC Bahrain.

Decision’s Effect Will Be Minimal

Analysts believe that any decision issued from the TRA will have little effect on the way Batelco and Viva do business.

“The TRA is doing its job to prevent aggressive competition so other operators don’t suffer. Eventually Batelco and Viva will have to reduce their prices. This will reflect on their market share, but could help margins as prices increase,” the analyst said.