The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has released for consultation its draft decision in relation to its review of competition in the retail and wholesale markets for domestic data connectivity services in Bahrain.
TRA’s preliminary view is that Batelco continues to have Significant Market Power (SMP) in the retail market and dominance in the wholesale market for the supply of domestic data connectivity services. As a result, TRA is proposing to retain regulatory obligations on Batelco, including regulated wholesale access, in order to promote the competitive supply of connectivity services with guaranteed bandwidth in Bahrain.
Domestic data connectivity services include high-quality, guaranteed bandwidth services supplied to business customers. These include traditional leased line services, as well as more modern Ethernet-based services between two or more customer premises. Batelco’s competitors also rely on Batelco’s wholesale connectivity services in order to provide them with domestic backhaul, which in turn supports a wide range of downstream services, such as fixed and mobile broadband, data and calling services.
TRA last reviewed these markets in 2006 and 2008, when it found Batelco had market power at both the retail and wholesale levels. Although there have been some competitive developments since the last market reviews, including the use of microwave-based links by competitors, Batelco continues to have a very high market share, and in the absence of regulated wholesale access to Batelco’s network, there are high barriers to new entry and expansion in these markets. In addition, TRA notes that competitors offering microwave-based services face a number of quality-of-service and capacity limitations which constrain their ability to compete with Batelco’s fixed-line services in the supply of guaranteed bandwidth services.
The importance of wholesale access to Batelco’s network is likely to increase further with the deployment of 4G LTE networks.
“The draft determination released recognizes the importance of high-quality domestic connectivity services to the telecommunications sector and the wider business community in Bahrain. Given the lack of competitive alternatives, TRA has concluded that wholesale access to Batelco’s network should remain in place and be strengthened where necessary to ensure that its competitors are able to compete across a number of downstream markets,” says TRA’s General Director Mohamed Bubashait.
“In contrast to the broadband market, where the Authority is proposing to remove regulatory obligations in relation to mass-market broadband services, competitive concerns remain in relation to higher-quality guaranteed bandwidth services.”
TRA is inviting interested parties to submit on the draft determination, with submissions due by 4pm, Thursday 30 January 2014.