Bahrain will decide whether to open its telecoms market to a third mobile phone operator by the end of February, the kingdom's telecoms watchdog said on Tuesday.
Bahrain Telecommunications Co (Batelco) and Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co (Zain) operate a two networks on the island of about 743,000 people. The government wants to increase competition.
"We are deciding whether to open Bahrain to a third mobile operator, and that decision will be taken by the end of February," Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA) director Alan Horne told Reuters.
The regulator will also decide by then whether to allow customers to keep their numbers when switching networks and to any changes to tariffs as part a review of Bahrain's telecoms industry, Horne said.
Businesses can apply for any type of telecoms licence in Bahrain except to operate a mobile phone network.
If Bahrain does sell a third licence, the process of inviting and evaluating bids could take about six months, he said.
The TRA put pressure last year on Batelco, which has about 70 per cent of Bahrain's mobile market, to cut prices and open its network to competitors.
Nearly all Bahrain's residents own a mobile phone. (Reuters)
Bahrain to decide on third mobile licence by March