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Thu 10 May 2007 12:01 AM

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Batelco could lose monopoly

Bahrain's TRA considering equal opportunities for all operators.

Bahrain's telecoms watchdog said it was mulling plans to end Bahrain Telecommunications Co.'s (Batelco) monopoly on the construction and maintenance of the island's telecoms infrastructure.

"Batelco has so far been the only licensed operator involved in the coordination system. TRA (Telecoms Regulatory Authority) is now considering four different options for granting all operators equal opportunity," Bahrain's telecoms watchdog said in a statement posted on its web site.

Batelco, Bahrain's second largest listed company by market value, once had a monopoly over the island's entire telecoms sector before it was liberalised in 2004, but the firm is still the only operator coordinating with Bahrain's government on telecoms infrastructure construction and maintenance.

Rival telecoms operators have complained that this gives Batelco an unfair advantage, because they must rely on Batelco for infrastructure to offer new services, and because Batelco can set the price for its use. Batelco's Chief Executive Peter Kaliaropoulos has denied this, saying that the prices the firm's rivals were prepared to pay to use its infrastructure were too low.

Last month, the TRA said it was in talks with Batelco about offering rival operators access to the firm's extensive infrastructure on the same terms it offers it to its own retail business.

The TRA has set a deadline of May 22 for comments on its plan, details of

which are available on its Web site (www.tra.org.bh).

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