Citizens across the six GCC nations now enjoy further price reductions on roaming rates (starting from 1 April, 2017). This marks the second year of price reductions, and will continue with further reductions every year, until 2020. The reductions allow operators more room for innovation and better focus on solutions that would suit consumer needs in accordance with the market trends, says Adel Darwish, head of international relations, TRA Bahrain.
The Roaming Regulation began with the GCC Ministerial Committee’s first decision in 2010, when the need arose to address the high costs of roaming that consumers were exposed to. This led to the formation of the Roaming Working Group, represented by regulators from each Gulf country and spearheaded by TRA Bahrain.
CommsMEA: How effective was the first year of price reduction in Bahrain? What were the main challenges faced and what’s being done this time around to counter those?
Adel Darwish: TRA Bahrain has been observing the telecommunication market place and it has been apparent that the operators have indeed realised the importance of regional roaming, and have therefore taken the necessary steps to introduce solutions for consumers to adhere to the roaming regulation at the GCC level. During this implementation the main challenge was to ensure that consumers were made aware of the new rates. The region faced some challenges during the first implementation of the first roaming regulation back in 2010, but this time it was smoother and no major challenges where faced from the operational aspect.
CommsMEA: Along with reduction of prices for data, SMS and voice, have the caps been raised or they have been kept constant?
Darwish: The current reduction is part of the GCC roaming regulation as part of new roaming caps. The roaming caps are the minimum requirement; operators have the option to go below the cap. This allows room for innovation and better focus on solutions that would suit consumer needs in accordance with the market trends.
CommsMEA: So, are the roaming prices going to be same across all the operators?
Darwish: Actual prices are left for operators to implement. The caps set by the TRA or even by the GCC council are the same across all GCC member states and converted in the local currency. The GCC regulators have set the price caps without interference into what the operators can do to introduce more attractive and innovative packages to consumers.
CommsMEA: How do these regulations change the face of Bahraini telecom market?
Darwish: This regulation unifies the efforts of the GCC countries towards providing more welfare for its citizens and residents collectively. Higher levels of cooperation and the union of regional policies such as this improve the lives of everyone and pave the way for a better future.
CommsMEA: Apart from these roaming regulations, what else has TRA BAH been doing to facilitate the growth of the market?
Darwish: TRA is currently implementing the fourth national telecommunication plan with one of its main goals being the deployment of the national broadband network, or NBN. In addition to the NBN project, TRA has numerous initiatives in the interest of growing the telecommunication market such as the review of international connectivity supply chain, spectrum award, review of licensing regime, and review of the telecommunications law among other important projects that set the stage for the expected transformation of the telecommunication market in Bahrain and the globe.