TRA finalises broadband market determinations

28 Mar 2014

Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has issued a final determination of Significant Market Power (SMP) in the retail and wholesale fixed broadband internet access markets. Following public consultation on earlier draft decisions, the regulator confirmed that Batelco is no longer an SMP operator in the retail or wholesale consumer fixed broadband segments, but continues to hold SMP status in the business retail/wholesale fixed broadband markets.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that in November 2013 the TRA issued a draft determination to deregulate the wholesale and retail markets for consumer fixed broadband internet access, having decided that no licensee held SMP in the retail or wholesale consumer segments. The decision means that incumbent Batelco will no longer face ex ante regulation on its residential retail fixed broadband tariffs, and will no longer be required to offer local loop unbundling (LLU), bitstream access or ‘Wholesale DSL (WDSL)’ resale to competitors in the consumer segment over its copper infrastructure, nor be required to offer equivalent wholesale services over its fibre infrastructure. All three wholesale services may still be provided on an unregulated basis subject to commercial agreements between Batelco and wholesale customers (ISPs); Batelco must also fulfil existing contractual obligations in relation to the termination of existing supply of these services. The deregulation was based on the fact that consumer broadband competition had changed significantly since the previous SMP determinations in 2008/09 (which bestowed Batelco with SMP in retail and wholesale consumer markets): DSL internet had since been overtaken in terms of user volume by WiMAX-based services, while demand for fixed broadband has also been eroded due to the surge in take-up of cellular 3G/4G alternatives, including those provided by Batelco itself.

In the business (enterprise) broadband market, however, GlobalComms says that in November 2013 the TRA determined that Batelco continued to hold SMP in the wholesale and retail markets for business users’ fixed broadband access, and the regulator’s final decision confirmed this, meaning that all the incumbent’s existing regulatory obligations continue to apply in the business user segment. The TRA added in its final determination that it will review this situation if levels of competition in the enterprise segment change significantly.