Bahrain’s competitive broadband market continues to deliver significant benefits to residential customers and small enterprises, through lower prices and more attractive service features such as higher service speeds and data allowances, according to a press statement issued from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) on Thursday .
The range of services offered by efficient competition across a range of technological platforms, and ongoing investment in new technologies such as high-speed mobile broadband, is a sign of healthy and sustainable competition.
Increased value for money for consumers is evident from the market monitoring activities undertaken by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). In May 2014, TRA’s latest retail price benchmarking report showed that residential fixed broadband prices in Bahrain had fallen by up to 38% between 2012 and 2013, and mobile broadband prices by up to 65% over the same period.
Broadband packages have continued to improve throughout 2014. Following the TRA’s determination in March 2014 to deregulate the residential and small enterprise segment, prices were reduced significantly . For example, the price of a 10 Mbps ADSL service was BD80 in 2013, with a data allowance of 80GB, was reduced to BD30, and the data allowance was increased to 100GB, offering consumers more data for a lower price.
A more competitive broadband market is also having a positive effect in terms of speeds, internet usage, and customer satisfaction. The proportion of broadband subscribers in Bahrain on plans with advertised speeds of at least 2Mbps increased to 81% in 2013, compared to 72% in 2012 and 12% in 2007. According to TRA’s latest consumer survey, the full results of which will be published shortly, the proportion of individuals using the internet reached 87% in 2014, up from 77% in 2011 and 53% in 2007. Consumer satisfaction with broadband pricing in Bahrain also increased to 87% in 2014, from 60% in 2011 and 36% in 2007.
The competitive broadband outcomes which have been achieved for Bahrain end users have been recognized by a number of recent international reports. According to The Global Competitiveness Report (2014-2015) published recently by the World Economic Forum, Bahrain ranked 8th globally in terms of the proportion of individuals using internet and 5th in mobile broadband subscriptions per capita. Bahrain also performs well in terms of broadband affordability. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has found that broadband penetration grows rapidly in those markets where the level of retail broadband price falls below 3–5 percent of average monthly incomes. Based on a report published by the World Bank in early 2014, "Broadband Networks in the Middle East and North Africa; Accelerating High-Speed Internet Access", Bahrain prices expressed as a percentage of GNI are below this threshold. The World Bank report identified Bahrain as the only country in the Middle East and North Africa region which has reached the mature stage in fixed and mobile broadband market development. The World Bank also acknowledged the increasing infrastructure-based competition in the supply of broadband services in Bahrain, with Wimax-based competitors and more recently strong growth in mobile broadband.
TRA’s General Director, Mohammed Bubashait, commented on the development of a competitive broadband market in Bahrain. "TRA has taken a number of important steps over the last 12 months to facilitate a more competitive broadband market, including the release of additional spectrum in 2013 to support the development of higher-speed mobile broadband services, and the deregulation of the residential and small enterprise market for broadband services in 2014. It is encouraging to see the fruits of this work emerging in the form of improved consumer broadband offerings, as well as in the form of increased consumer satisfaction with prices and service quality."
Bubashait continued to say that "TRA is proud to be at the forefront of regional efforts to liberalise broadband markets in order that consumers and businesses enjoy competitive and high-quality broadband services. We are delighted that international organizations such as the World Bank and the World Economic Forum continue to recognize the steps that TRA has taken to stimulate competitive markets which in turn will continue to deliver the consumer outcomes that we have seen throughout 2013 and 2014."