Bahrain Meets Operators to Debate Telecoms Masts Planning Woes
Bahrain's telecoms regulator, the TRA's General Director Mr. Alan Horne met with representatives from Batelco, MENA Telecom, STC and Zain to discuss the future for radiocommunications networks in Bahrain.
It was discussed that a number of Municipalities have not issued permits for masts and aerial sites for more than one year. Further, until recently, Municipalities have not been concerned with the erection of aerials on building roof tops. Given this situation and the commitments of licensed telecommunications operators to offer mobile services and fixed wireless broadband services, licensees have been forced to erect masts and install aerials prior to the granting of permits by Municipalities.
Alan Horne stated that "To ensure the development of the Bahraini telecommunications infrastructure in an optimum manner, it is essential that the telecommunications operators, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, the Ministry of Municipalities and Agriculture Affairs (Municipalities), the Commission responsible for the environment (Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife) and the relevant planning authorities work together in partnership to produce the most favourable solutions. This infrastructure must be deployed in a strategic way that minimizes the impact on the environment and seeks to take into account the interests of the general public."
Muharraq Municipality has now ruled that masts erected without permits should be removed from service. The industry group unanimously agreed that this was an unacceptable position. The example of Switzerland was sighted where, when faced with a similar threat from authorities, the mobile operators cut off all service for a short period as a demonstration of the importance of telecommunications. There was a public outcry following which the authorities and industry worked together to resolve the situation.
To avoid any disruption in the telecommunications services provided to consumers in Muharraq or any other Municipality, the industry group agreed that the enforcement action by Municipalities should be frozen to enable the industry joint actions to be taken. The industry agreed that TRA should agree revised procedures for new masts erection and conduct a review of all mast sites without permits. If a site does not comply with the procedure, the operator shall upgrade the site to establish compliance. In the event that rectification work is not carried out, TRA will work with the respective Municipality to enforcement removal of all sites which do not comply.
Alan Horne concluded the meeting by thanking all the Licensees for their cooperation and for their faith in the sector and authorities in making the substantial investments in the essential infrastructure required to support the economy of Bahrain. "TRA will work closely with all authorities and the industry to ensure that consumers are able to receive the radiocommunications services safely and in a timely manner. We do not want existing services disrupted as it will affect the social and business fabric impacting jobs and the economy. We must all diligently carry out the actions agreed today and encourage the Municipal councils to take the route which meets the needs of the majority of consumers and businesses."
It was unanimously agreed that the infrastructure needed to underpin radiocommunications must be delivered in a manner which keeps the environmental impact to a minimum.
During the industry Meeting it was agreed that greater clarity was required in the whole process of obtaining permits to put up masts and aerials. Earlier this year the industry established a working group to cooperate in preparing detailed procedures and guidelines, taking into account the willingness of the industry to share radiocommunication masts.
The group requested that, before any drastic action was taken effecting the population of Muharraq or any other Municipality, TRA write to all Municipalities stating that enforcement action by Municipalities be frozen to enable joint actions to be taken.