Malta’s small telecom sector is among the most advanced in Europe. This has been helped by the topography, which has made it relatively easy for operators to expand the reach of their fibre infrastructure. With high mobile and broadband penetration rates, the government and regulator have effective strategies in place to capitalise on these infrastructure developments to ensure that the population has among the fastest data rates in Europe, and so is well positioned to take advantage of emerging e-commerce opportunities.
The sector has also been stimulated by regulatory measures designed to reduce consumer prices. Melita having been sold to EQT in late 2019 and Vodafone Malta having been sold to Monaco Telecom, and rebranded as Epic. The incumbent telco GO is investing in a subsea cable to connect the islands to France and Egypt. Expected to be ready for service in 2022, the cable will further enhance Malta’s internet bandwidth and lead to reduced prices for end-users.
There has also been some encouragement to increase market competition. This led to the VULA agreement between GO and Epic Malta, by which Epic was able to enter the fixed broadband market using GO’s fibre infrastructure. In April 2021 Epic began offering FttP services directly, over its own fibre network
Melita provides a national gigabit service via its fibre and DOCSIS3.1 networks, while GO’s extensive FttP network covered about 150,000 premises by early 2021. The company is investing €100 million to develop LTE and fibre through to 2023.
BuddeComm notes that the Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the telecoms market. On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, has offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect has been a reduced (and sometimes negative) subscriber growth, which will continue into 2021.
Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.
On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.
Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.
The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.
Epic Malta (Vodafone Malta), GO, Melita, SIS, Ozone, Redtouch Fone, PING, Monaco Telecom, Divitel
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