Colloquium: Maldives TRE Study 2008

Posted on September 19, 2008  /  1 Comments

The study was conducted by Ms. Helani Galpaya.

She first went over the overview of the Maldives, both in general and telecommunications.

Previous monopoly partially privatized, and Dhiraagu is established in 1988 and continues to dominate the market.

10% of GDP is attributed to communication services, of which telecom is dominant.IN 2001 mobile prepaid services were launched and hence resulted in a surge in the number of mobile subscribers. In 2005, Wataniya enters the market (through a relatively transparent process).  The anticipation of this entry results in a large drop in the incumbent prices.

The current market: There is a monopoly on fixed: Dhiraagu. However, the exclusivity ends in 2009. There is a duopoly in the mobile between Dhiraagu and Wataniya. Broadband is also a duopoly between Dhiraagu and Focus Infocom.

Dhiraagu does not publish any data, even subscriber numbers. However, the market share of Dhiraagu does not seem to have changed much. This proves that the competitor does not seem to be having an impact on the incumbent. The ARPU is higher than in most South Asian countries. This is the case even though roaming revenues have been removed from the equation. Wataniya who has been in operation for about two years they have not been able to make a profit as yet.

There are two submarine cables. While this gives redundancy, unsure if higher cost justified for a small market.

The regulator (TAM) was established in 2003, and operate on a decree. They are not financially independent but this is due to change soon with the impending elections, new constitution and proposed Telecom Act.

TRE for Market Entry: Mobile and broadband sectors are doing well. However, mobile is below average. The fixed sector has a monopoly. This allows for corruption factors. In regard to mobile there was the selection of Wataniya and hence the higher scores. Broadband has two players and a partial third player.

Scarce resources: Spectrum is allocated free. They charge a 5% royalty fee on gross revenues, minus interconnection charges. In Male, Dhiraagu and MediaNet have fiber rings. Focus has to buy capacity from either Dhiraagu or MediaNet. In the resorts, Wataniya cannot play as Dhiraagu set up towers and refuses to share their towers with competitors. Out of the 88 current active towers, Dhiraagu shares one tower and seven resorts have allowed new towers. So, Dhiraagu maintains the monopoly on 80 islands.

Interconnection: Mobile and Fixed do better than broadband. When Wataniya came up there was an RIO by TAM.  Dhiraagu also published one.  Claim is that prices converged.  Wataniya is not allowed to bring in international traffic & terminate on Dhiraagu network..  So only make close-to-local termination from incoming international.  Could make more if allowed to bring in traffic.


Tariff regulation: Generally good overall with slightly better performances in mobile. Both mobile operators have to inform the regulator 5 days prior, in the event that no questions asked the tariff plan goes ahead. There seems to be price competition in the mobile market.

Anti- competitive practices: Mobile does best in this category. However, the lower scores can be due to the unfair position that Dhiraagu has and soft-touch approach TAM is perceived to take towards the incumbent.

USO: Fixed- available in all inhabited islands but take up seems to be low. Mobile- covers 96%- 98% in inhabited islands.  Wataniya rolled out in 6 months. Broadband is limited to certain places. There is no USO fees/ funds.

QoS: Very high scores in all three sectors. There does not seem to be any active monitoring though QoS data is reported to TAM. The regulator takes consumer complaints seriously and follows up with the operators.

There seem to be high scores overall in the TRE for Maldives. This could be due to the improvements made in recent times. Or due to the small island culture where everyone knows everyone or other reasons.

Recommendations: Wataniya should get access to resorts. This should be both in mobile and broadband. TAM should get legal/ financial independence through the new Telecom Act.  The renewal of Dhiraagu’s license should be handled transparently as possible.

Rohan: The problem is the exclusivity that Dhiraagu is given. This creates a great deal of distortions.

The study: 94% of the survey was done through the internet and 6% was done through paper surveys.



1 Comment

  1. maldivesresortworkers

    very informative article. more needs to be done to raise awareness among the population to force the authorities to adress this situation.