Investment in fibre networks stimulates national FttH ambitions in Malta

Malta’s small telecom sector has been stimulated by a number of regulatory measures designed to increase competition and reduce consumer prices, as also to pave the way towards a national FttH telecom infrastructure.

The broadband market remains largely controlled by two operators, with Melita retaining a monopoly on cable services and GO commanding an near complete dominance in the DSL market. By mid-2012 alternative broadband players had only a 0.5% share of the DSL market by subscribers. An alternative island-wide WiMAX service is provided by Vodafone. Broadband penetration, which for long was comparatively low by European standards, has risen sharply in recent years, while average broadband speeds have also increased rapidly on the back of operator investments in new technologies.

The value of Malta’s telecom market, as also its contribution to the overall economy, has fallen since 2009. The decline is in line with other telecom markets in Europe and follows the global context of the economic downturn. Investment in telecoms networks was maintained into 2010, though this was mainly made up of investment from mobile operators which compensated for lower investment by other operators providing fixed-line services, which fell by more than 50% year-on-year.

In the mobile market Vodafone Malta, and GO Mobile and Melita Mobile have been joined by a few MVNOs which are gradually extending market share, though the sector remains dominated by GO Mobile and Vodafone. These operators offer quad-play services including mobile combinations of voice, cable TV, IPTV and telephony, which as bundles make it hard for other operators to gain a foothold other than within narrow markets. Nevertheless, a sympathetic regulatory regime is having a marked effect on operator behaviour as they struggle to retain existing customers in an increasingly competitive market.

The key issue for coming years will be the continuing effort by the regulator to encourage an NGN through developing regulations attractive as investment opportunities, and so maintain momentum in one of Europe’s smallest markets.

Malta – Key telecom parameters – 2010; 2012 (e)

Fixed-line

2010

2012

Subscribers (thousand) 247,000 230,000
Fixed-line penetration (population) 57% 52%
Broadband
Subscribers 121,000 138,000
Broadband penetration (population) 30% 33%
Mobile service
Subscribers 455 475
Mobile penetration (population) 110% 134%

(Source: BuddeComm)

Market highlights:

  • The number of pay TV subscribers fell in 2012 as subscribers cut the cord and began to rely increasingly on IPTV: the number of IPTV subscribers doubled in the six months to June 2012.
  • In late 2012 GO began expanding its FttH network and capabilities, offering speeds of up to 200Mb/s for its ‘rapido’ service.
  • In mid-2012 the regulator published a decision notice regarding the assignment of spectrum in the 3400–3800MHz band for Broadband Wireless Access services. Licensees for a sub-band must provide national coverage within two years.
  • The government in early 2012 called for a national FttH network to be built, with a minimum broadband service being upgraded from 4Mb/s to 100Mb/s.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Malta – Telecoms, IP Networks, Digital Media and Forecasts

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