FLOURISH IN A
The Market and Competition Directorate focuses on maintaining a thriving and competitive market where transparency and fair play comprise essential values for all parties. This means telecommunications operators have to continuously provide consumers with innovative services, as explained in the Consumer Surplus Study which was released by the TRA.
Despite the intense competition in the telecommunications market, the sector revenues witnessed a notable growth in the period between 2014 and 2015 – this was evidenced by the latest market indicators released by the TRA. The indicators demonstrated that revenues reached BD450 million in 2015 compared to BD430 million in 2014, a growth rate of 4.9% over the past year. Moreover, telecommunications operators invested around BD49 million in 2015.
Furthermore, by the end of 2015 there were about 2.54 million mobile subscribers in Bahrain, an increase of 9% compared to 2014. By the end of 2015, mobile penetration in Bahrain rose to 187% compared to 177% by the end of 2014. While the mobile market in Bahrain remained predominantly prepaid with prepaid subscribers representing 78% of mobile subscriber, the mobile postpaid subscriptions increased by 103% between 2010 and 2015.
Additionally, broadband services witnessed a growth during 2015. By the end of 2015, there were approximately 2.0 million broadband subscriptions compared to 1.68 million at the end of 2014 (18% growth), representing a broadband penetration of 145%.
In the area of fixed telephony services, a fall of 2.9% was observed given there were only 240,000 fixed lines (21% penetration) in 2015 due to the competition from mobile and wireless services.
In relation to the employment in the telecommunications sector, it was stated that 3,200 employees were working in the telecommunication sector in 2015, with an annual compound growth rate in the number of employees of 4% between 2008 and 2015. Moreover, the statistics denoted that the sector achieved a high degree of Bahrainisation (68% as of 2015).
While the services, indicators, revenues and numbers indicated the TRA had been working diligently in the best interest of consumers, this was substantiated by the retail price benchmark study of telecommunications services in Arab countries. The findings of the study revealed that the prices of telecommunications services in Bahrain continued to compare well with other GCC and Arab countries. In fact, Bahrain’s improvement in 2015 compared favourably to developed countries that are members of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development “OECD”, especially regarding fixed broadband and mobile broadband prices, which were lower in Bahrain than the OECD average.
These findings were supported by a separate report published by the International Telecommunications Union “ITU”. According to the report, Bahrain made the most progress in the ITU’s ICT Development Index (“IDI”) value between 2010 and 2015 among the 167 economies covered. The ITU also found that the fixed broadband services had become very affordable in Bahrain.
The Market and Competition Directorate also worked on its strategic review, which provided the TRA with a roadmap of projects and activities expected to stimulate a more dynamic and efficient sector. Since the previous Strategic Market Review, which took place in 2008, the telecommunications market in Bahrain developed positively in a number of areas. The final Strategic Market Review (SMR) report was published on 31 August 2015 and revealed that the TRA continued to be a highly progressive market regulator; taking pioneering steps to foster efficient market outcomes. Significant investments had been made in new technologies, notably the rollout of competitive Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks throughout the country. In addition, international capacity and cable route diversity had improved while international connectivity costs had decreased significantly.