The Consumer Affairs Directorate’s main objective is to develop the consumer experience in the telecommunications sector. Such an objective requires an interactive and open channel between the TRA team and consumers. Despite the challenges brought on during 2015, the TRA worked hard to engage consumers.

Impressive growth in telecommunications services during previous years led to an increasing demand for accurate data and statistics in the telecommunications sector. Indicators and statistical data proved critical in order to design, monitor and evaluate policies. Thus, while the Authority previously gathered market statistics from licensed operators and consumers that represented the market perspective, furthermore, 2015 afforded the TRA a valuable opportunity to obtain information from the consumer perspective in order to understand their experience when using telecommunications services.

During 2015, the TRA released the results of two residential surveys: the first being the “Telecommunications Markets Survey” and the second being the “Consumer Experience Survey”.

The “Telecommunications Markets Survey” examined the usage of and access to different telecommunications services including fixed lines, mobile phones and internet services by users as well as measuring the extent to which users are satisfied with their telecommunications services.

The Survey revealed that 100% of respondents had access to mobile phones and 89% of respondents had access to internet at home, while only 12% of respondents had access to a fixed-line service. The survey also revealed that 93% of respondents had used the internet in the last three months, compared to 87% in 2014. In terms of usage of telecommunications services, the survey disclosed that the average usage of SMS per week had decreased dramatically from 20 SMS’s per week in 2011 to only 2 SMS’s per week in 2015. The majority of respondents in 2015 used mobile phones (direct dial calls) to make weekly international calls followed by Smartphone applications.

The Survey also examined the switching behavior among different telecommunications service providers. 12% of respondents who owned a fixed line switched their fixed-line providers in 2015. The same percentage of respondents switched their mobile service providers and a slightly lower percentage of respondents (10%) switched internet service providers. The main reasons given for switching between services providers were different among the telecommunications services. The TRA noted that “Quality of Service” was given as the main reason for switching among different fixed-line services providers, “attractive promotion” for mobile phone services and “better price” for internet services.

The Survey indicated that overall consumer satisfaction with telecommunications services in Bahrain remained high (above 90%) in 2015 across different telecommunications services.

The Consumer Experience Survey conversely pinpointed some areas of concerns to consumers where satisfaction levels were low. This survey detailed that consumers were struggling with indoor mobile coverage given a dissatisfaction level of 32% and mobile data quality with a dissatisfaction level of 38%.

Additionally, consumers faced some challenges that increased their dissatisfaction. The most significant of which was their experience with transparency of information given by providers. Following this, consumers who formally submitted complaints to Broadband Providers were extremely dissatisfied with their experience. Some challenges also came across touch points, such as long waiting times in shops and call centers, in addition to the lack of staff knowledge.

The consumer experience survey addressed the awareness of the TRA. Out of total respondents, only 24% had heard about the TRA before. The main source of the TRA’s awareness was given as “print ads” and “word of mouth”.

Given that Bahrain is a large investment hub, consumer segments are made up of businesses, as well as individuals. In fact, businesses represent a large proportion of the consumers who benefit from telecommunications services. Hence, telecommunications services are critical to running businesses.

In 2015, the TRA released the results of its telecommunications survey among business users, which was undertaken during June and July 2015, and covered a representative sample of 252 respondents. The survey examined access to and usage of different telecommunications services including fixed lines, mobile phones and internet services by business users as well as measuring the extent to which business users were satisfied with their telecommunications services.

Based on the survey results, the majority of businesses considered telecommunications as an integral part of their operations. The survey also showed that businesses in Bahrain benefit from the increasingly competitive offers of affordable, innovative, and high-grade telecommunications services.

In line with its responsibilities and mission to enhance user experience for both consumers and businesses within the telecommunications sector, the TRA worked on gaining insights on subscriber experience with the main telecommunications providers, namely; Batelco, Menatelecom, Viva, and Zain.

In summary, the directorate concluded that business users as well as individuals were satisfied with their telecoms services overall. However, there were areas of concern that need to be addressed with telecommunication operators in respect of each individual category. Therefore, moving forward, the TRA will continue building on its efforts to monitor trends and changes in the market in order to improve the experience of consumers.