Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Third MNO for Bahrain, MVNOs not wanted yet – Bahrain

According to Alan Horne, General Director of Bahrain’s Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA), the third MNO that intends to enter Bahrain must have start up experience. He stated that in 2009, TRA will focus more on customers rather than on operators. He said: “TRA is split "80/20", with 80% working with the operators and 20% on the consumer side. That needs to be rebalanced to spending more time with the consumers, and we're going to have a major campaign in 2009 that we're working on now, and that should start hopefully in February,"

Commenting on the third MNO license, he said: “We're hoping to see [the third mobile operator] not only awarded but also operating before the end of 2009, so a third mobile operator will stimulate and stir up the market and make it truly competitive rather than a duopoly. We delayed [the tender] twice; the second time a number of the bidders were just getting their finances together and their bank guarantees and it was running into Eid and then the Christmas break so we pushed it to the beginning of January."

Commenting on the MVNO operations, he said: “Two or three of the MVNO companies in the area have been knocking on the door for some time, but we decided to go for the third infrastructure competitor and also to go for the unified license in Bahrain. The companies have to have some economies of scope, and therefore they need to be into the fixed, international, mobile, WiMAX, ISPs and premium, value added services. That's how, as a small nation, we see that we can benefit. Through economies of scale and having our operators linked in with, or part of a subsidiary arm, or in fact being the lead in an organization operating in many more countries and then giving economies of scope through having unified licenses and allowing them to do everything and anything within the country”.

“We're rationalizing our licensing regime and moving from the current 12 licenses we have to fundamentally one type of license called the unified license. The unified license will allow licensees to offer any technology and any service and the only restriction will be on the mobility aspect, until after the end of 2010. So this unified license should allow MVNOs, if they can come to an agreement with one of the three operators."

The result of this could actually be the catalyst for letting MVNOs in. 2 dominant MNOs outperforming a 3rd failing star up MNO or an incumbent seeing its subscriber base being churned away may be the cause of the 1st MNO to allow MVNOs on their network. What then follows is normally a race to for each network to have their own discount MVNO, a content focused MVNO, an ethnic focused MVNO, a roaming MVNO and all with the overall result being a truly open market. Alternatively, the 3rd MNO may not materialise or if it does it may by default be its own MVNO while it roams on the 2 other networks while trying to build out its own infrastructure.