25 April - 1 May 2001

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Home working made easier by ADSL
DataStream CEO, Godfrey Vella, talks to KURT SANSONE on the potential of high-speed data services
DataStream’s CEO, Godfrey Vella has come a long way since his student worker days when he was posted with one of the work corps under military discipline, created by the Mintoff government.
Today, Mr Vella heads a company that is at the forefront of technology. Taking a slice out of his busy schedule he found time to talk to The Business Times.
DataStream offers a whole range of services, however it was inevitable that the discussion fell on ADSL.
ADSL was introduced on the market late last year and according to Mr Vella has proved to be a success among Internet users. This technology offers a wider bandwidth than the normal dial-up connection and could be used for a number of services apart from the Internet.
"The response we received was beyond our expectations and I estimate that Malta has more households than the European average connected to broadband technology", Mr Vella said with a glimmer in his eyes.
He insisted that ADSL is particularly suited for business people. Among the various business solutions, DataStream offers a teleworker service. This makes it possible for users to access their office network from home.
Mr Vella said, "ADSL’s dedicated line technology, in which the user has a personal line, offers increased security. It may also be used by a businesses wanting to create a network between its various branches."
ADSL’s introduction has not been without its problems. Mr. Vella is the first to admit that in some cases provisioning has taken three weeks or more.
"Providing clients with ADSL is more complex then other systems, firstly because the condition of the telephone line has to be established. This is a world-wide phenomenon", he explained.
However, DataStream is aiming for a one week limit from when the application is submitted and Mr Vella is confident that they "are getting there."
Although ADSL is offered by DataStream the user has to purchase the service from Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This means that the end product experienced by users depends greatly on the capabilities of the ISP of their choice.
Mr Vella admitted that sometimes the problems that arise are linked to the service offered by the customer’s ISP.
"There are some ISPs who are up to standard, while others are amateurish in their approach. We have to work with everybody, however users can shop around for the ISP of their choice", Mr. Vella insisted.
Turning to customer care, Mr Vella was adamant.
"If a client has a problem whatever it is, we have the responsibility to solve it. We sometimes tread a fine line because technically clients belong to the ISP they are subscribed to. We sometimes face ridiculous problems such as unplugged modems, but our duty is to help users just the same."
Being a player in the telecoms field the inevitable question of human resources cropped up.
Mr Vella said that it was as difficult for DataStream as any other IT or telecom company to find the right people.
"We have got some of the best people on the island, however people with experience in specialised areas are very limited. I personally believe that education is the key to the problem", Mr. Vella added.
Since 1992, when he was involved in the working group to create a national IT startegy, Mr Vella has been stressing the need to gear up our educational system to the changing needs of industry. "Progress has been done but not fast enough", he said.
DataStream employs around 40 people and is a subsidiary of Maltacom plc. It acts as the data services arm of the group. The company, headed by Mr Vella, commenced operations last year and started offering a range of high-speed data services. It will certainly be involved in Maltacom’s digital interactive TV venture when this is launched commercially.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt