By Kurt Sansone
The process to introduce high speed mobile telephony technology in Malta will start rolling today when the Malta Communications Authority issues a call for applications for three third generation (3G) frequencies.
Although the current two mobile phone operators yesterday chose not to comment as to whether they intend applying, it is widely believed that both Vodafone and go mobile will eventually submit applications to secure 3G frequencies for themselves.
go mobile, a subsidiary of Maltacom, has repeatedly said over the past few months that 3G technology is the way forward.
The contest is also expected to attract foreign competition, although when contacted yesterday the MCA said it was not aware of any interest from international operators.
Another Maltese-owned company, Prima Cell Ltd, has already announced its plans to compete for one of the available frequencies.
A spokesperson for the MCA said the call for applications will remain open for a month. “If more than three operators apply for the available frequencies a comparative process, referred to as a beauty contest, will be held assessing the bids on a number of relevant criteria,” the spokesperson told The Malta Financial and Business Times.
The MCA spokesperson said the two existing mobile phone operators will not have any advantage over newcomers in terms of the call for applications. Vodafone and Go Mobile are currently licensed to operate second generation (2G) networks and will have to apply afresh for the 3G frequencies.
The selection process is expected to take around six weeks, which means that by June the MCA could very well have allocated the 3G frequencies. Operators granted a licence would then have up to five years to set the ball rolling.
Furthermore, the MCA has no intention of issuing a call for applications for a third network operator utilising second generation (2G) technology.
Third generation technology combines wireless mobile technology with high data transmission capacities and gives greater added value to the mobile phone. Apart from normal telephony 3G technology allows high speed internet access, video calls and audio-visual streaming.