24 May 2006

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Business Today

Maltatel fails to start, tells MCA it will stop operations

Matthew Vella

Maltatel, the telecoms company that had promised super low-cost telephone rates back in 2005, will no longer continue to operate after it informed the Malta Communications Authority of its decision earlier this year.
A spokesperson for the MCA confirmed the Gozo-based company had informed the national regulator of its intention to cease operations.
Former Maltatel director Mario Gatt yesterday told Business Today he stepped down from the company back in November 2005. The registrar of companies still lists Gatt as shareholder in Maltatel, along with his other company Mediterranean Telecommunications Research Institute Ltd.
Attempts to contact company secretary Ernest Cilia yesterday proved futile.
The company had announced it would commence operations back in April 2005 in Gozo and spread nationwide by October 2005.
It was involved in a long dispute over the “phenomenal costs for the use of Maltacom infrastructure”, Mario Gatt had said in a press conference at the start of the year, to connect Maltatel users with Maltacom subscribers. The company had also asked interested clients to subscribe at Lm5 in the form of an “expression of interest”, with the Lm5 not being refundable if the offer was not taken up.
The first 1,500 subscribers were also offered a Lm200 offer for a four-day Paris break.
It is unclear as to how many subscriptions the company collected and whether these will be refundable if it stops operations.
MaltaTel subscribers were offered charges of just 1c cent for a five-minute landline telephone call, severely undercutting Maltacom and Easyline rates by an average of four cents. The company had also said it would provide a 1024/256K broadband connection priced at Lm12 a month.
Director Mario Gatt had proudly stated that Maltatel had “managed to anticipate by five years that which the EU expected Malta to have by 2010, that is, broadband being accessible to everybody. I am sure we are going to have a great demand for this service.”
A Lm17 million investment had been earmarked for the company’s network.
Earlier last week, the Malta Communications Authority also wrote to Ernest Cilia, the secretary of International Call Management Ltd, whose directors are also listed as Maltatel’s directors, to settle Lm6,956 in general authorisation fees.
The fee includes interest due and relate to the charges listed under the Electronic Communications Networks and Services regulations.
The MCA has given ICM up to the 14 June to reply and take appropriate measures to comply.
The authority has also warned ICM it will withdraw the general authorisation held by ICM with immediate effect unless it pays its dues.
In a letter to the company, MCA chief legal adviser Paul Micallef wrote that “notwithstanding various requests by the MCA, ICM have failed to settle long standing general authorisation dues… confronted with this situation (MCA) has no option but to act in accordance with its powers under the Malta Communications Authority Act and the Electronic Communications Networks and Services (General) Regulations and warn ICM that its general authorisation to provide other publicly available electronic communications services will be withdrawn and notice to this effect advising the public issued accordingly.”


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