Bahrain TRA issues 'record' fine to Batelco

Cable controversy leads TRA to hit Batelco with seven-figure fine.
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Batelco has refused to allow other licensed operators (OLOs) to access Reliance Globalcom (formerly FLAG Telecom)'s submarine landing station in their building, which the TRA says is unacceptable.

Horne said the fine is in the "single millions of dinars", and is the biggest ever issued by the country's telecom regulator.

"TRA had hoped that Batelco would honour its obligations to provide the services necessary to allow other licensed operators direct access to Flag. Unfortunately this has not happen," Alan Horne, TRA's general director said in a company statement.

"Having considered the gravity of situation TRA has decided to impose a substantial fine on Batelco which, should Batelco further delay the provision of these services, will increase. It should also be stated that the fine will be decreased if through Batelco's swift actions the services are provided in advance of the ordered date."

The TRA has now issued a draft order that details the charges and demands, which Batelco can respond to within the next thirty days.

"There is a figure, and if they comply quickly then that figure is reduced. If they don't comply quickly then the figure is increased. The final figure will be made public in 30 days time," Horne said.

There's a chance the order could be withdrawn if appropriate grounds are presented.

Batelco Group media & government relations general manager Ahmed Al Janahi had earlier accused rivals of trying to reap the rewards from Batelco's infrastructure instead of making their own investments.

"In general, other licensed operators (OLOs) prefer to wait until Batelco invests and then insist that the TRA give them a risk-free share of that investment," Al Janahi told Gulf Daily News last month.

"Batelco has refused to supply space and facilities when requested in relation to gaining direct access to Flag. Whilst Batelco has the right to reject such an application the legal grounds for rejection are limited. Having considered the reasons for rejection cited by Batelco TRA considers that these are not justified," Rob Middlehurst, director of markets and competition at Bahrain's TRA further clarified.

"The country needs superhighways on and off the island, and those superhighways are very important to the economy. Anything that constrains those artificially is totally unacceptable. Overnight, other operators will be able to gain direct access to that international pipe, and that opens up international access to competition. International capacity coming on to the island is only 50% used. At the same time, operators are struggling to buy international capacity because of the price," Horne said.

- George Bevir

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