26 July 2006

The Web
Business Today

Telephony competition heats up

Competition in the telecommunications field is expected to intensify further this year with a third service provider also being allocated a carrier number.
As Melita and Maltacom gear up for the fixed line battle and the challenge to bundle services for their respective customers, a minnow is also preparing to enter the telephony market.
TeleMail, an internet service provider that has been around since 1994 offering corporate internet services and its own branded VOIP card product called iTalk, has been allocated the carrier select number 1055 by the Malta Communications Authority.
This new service would enable customers to call overseas by utilising the short code 1055. It is unclear whether TeleMail will make the service available to all customers or to its corporate client base. Telemail also has another prefix allocated 2010 and this is not yet accessible from Maltacom’s fixed line service. Hot on the heels of the Hello, a Melita product, and iTalk services, Telemail have also been allocated a code for a similar service with prefix 3550.
The MCA has updated its numbering allocation plan also granting Melita Cable the prefix 27 for fixed telephony.
While the two major telecom giants are gearing up to provide all kinds of telephony services under different brand names, it has yet to be seen if TeleMail shall provide its service under its single brand offering iTalk.
Last year another small Gozo-based operator called Maltatel tried to explore these waters only to pull out in a relatively short time.
The MCA has yet to allocate its third 3G spectrum for mobile telephony while it has allocated three licences for broadband wireless access. The first DTTV provider to offer a fully fledged service, Multiplus has not yet indicated whether over its infrastructure it is capable and willing to provide broadband and internet connectivity.
The race is on between Melita and Maltacom to be the first triple player operators in Malta. Triple play is the jargon used in telecommunications circles to describe operators who provide clients with telephony, broadband and TV. Melita has been providing cable TV since the early 1990s whilst it started to provide broadband via the use of its cable infrastructure in the second half of the last decade. Subsequently it introduced the Hello service, but this year it is determined to attack the core fixed line customer base with its 27 prefix offering.
On the other hand, Maltacom had been the sole provider of fixed telephone lines and provided broadband through its brand Maltanet. Last year Maltacom was granted a license to operate a Digital Terrestrial Television Service. However, less than four months from the expiry of the deadline of its license, no news is forthcoming of when the service will be offered.
Industry observers expect Maltacom and Melita Cable to use the IT&T fair, usually held in October as a springboard to showcase any new telecommunications service.

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