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Melita takes free wi-fi trial to Granaries for concert season

Melita chief executive officer Andrei Torriani: “We will make announcements about measures that will ensure the quality in streams of internet delivery to Malta in the next three to six months.”

Melita chief executive officer Andrei Torriani: “We will make announcements about measures that will ensure the quality in streams of internet delivery to Malta in the next three to six months.”

Following the successful launch of a free wi-fi trial in Paceville at the end of last year, Melita is gearing up to extend the exercise and offer an even better experience on Floriana’s Granaries for the concert season from this month.

Widespread next-generation wi-fi is only months away

The trial allows mobile users subscribed to any operator to experience Melita’s fibre power broadband on their handsets. The initiative falls under Melita’s strategy to leverage its technological resources to provide the best convergence to its customers so that they are able to enjoy IP-based telecommunications channels at their full potential, chief executive Andrei Torriani told The Times Business.

“This is next generation wi-fi and will offer much higher speeds than traditional hotspots,” Mr Torriani explained. “This is just one way we are working towards our wider goal to bring most of our services in line with our convergence strategy. Melita mobile subscribers will be able to enjoy increased convergence from now on. This will keep fuelling the growth experience of 2011, when Melita closed the year with almost 11 per cent market share of subscribers and almost a quarter of mobile minutes were generated on a Melita line.

“Convergence is not only happening in telephony, it is also taking place where broadband services are concerned. The next natural step is in mobile and will mean that users can take their ‘TV’ anywhere with them thanks to their phones and their tablets. Widespread next-generation wi-fi is only months away and that is where Melita is heading. As our network speeds improve thanks to fibre power, we will be delivering services wherever people want them.”

The increased accessibility to mobile has mapped the slow decline of fixed telephony, a decline which is gaining momentum. Malta lost more than 50 million minutes in fixed telephony but made up in mobile which increased by 100 million minutes last year.

Mr Torriani attributed the trend to both pricing and the capabilities of its IP-based core network, offering cost-advantages stemming from the ability to route most local and international telephony traffic over the internet, often at cheaper rates than those offered by services like Skype. But while the market in general saw declining subscriber numbers, Melita’s telephony client base continued to grow.

Melita, as other service providers, is constantly striving to satisfy consumers’ increasing demands for higher internet speeds. The company tripled customers’ entry level internet speeds to 15 megabits per second for free in a 10-week trial period which ended in February. Mr Torriani said more than 80 per cent of customers chose to remain on the higher speeds at a nominal extra charge which, he stressed, still resulted in the cheapest price per megabit in Malta and among the most competitive pricing in the EU.

These positive trends are encouraging Melita to continue to direct shareholders’ investments to support the increase in e-commerce and financial services industries in Malta, besides individual consumers and small businesses.

Malta already boasts one of the higher internet penetration rates in the European Union. Melita alone last year saw six per cent year-on-year growth – of the 5,500 new customers it won, 3,500 came on board after June. “We are not stopping at 15 megabits per second,” Mr Torriani pointed out. “We have a great technology platform and we are working on the cost-efficiencies. We want to deliver to every household in Malta along the lines of the EU digital agenda with the support of our regulator. We are ready to deliver 100 megabit per second service to every household and we will continue pushing beyond the EU’s 2020 objectives.

“In 2011, we experienced growth on all product lines driven by investments in our infrastructure and quality of service but most of all, with a clear vision of convergence,” Mr Torriani emphasised.

Continued convergence on broadband and TV opens up endless possibilities for Melita to improve its TV offering further. As transmission possibilities allow content providers to expand, they will increasingly be able to offer licensed ‘bouquets’ of content through third parties. By building a forward-looking infrastructure, Melita has positioned itself to be among operators which can immediately work with those third parties to bring more of the content that Maltese consumers want.

“Our strategy is to be ahead of the competition in providing the best environment for convergence and to bring more value,” the chief executive explained.

“We are continuously looking at what is available. People seem to think that we control independent channel programming. Consumers need to realise that Malta is a very small market and content providers often overlook the island when they are negotiating rights. There is an explosion of linear channels with changes in ownership taking place all the time. With more content moving to the web, it is an increasingly challenging environment. It can take months, and even years, to get content cleared, but we will bring more content to Malta, as we have just done with a range of Mediaset channels.”

Meanwhile, Melita is the only provider supporting state broadcaster PBS with high definition content for the Euro 2012 championship later this month. Later in the summer, the London Olympics events will air on Eurosport channels. Sport has proven a contentious issue over recent years with customers complaining about having to switch providers as rights bounce between operators.

Mr Torriani believed that with leagues charging ever higher fees for sport rights, a small market like Malta will find it increasingly difficult to carry the cost. He predicts linear TV models will soon be a thing of past as providers find ways to ‘share’ programming, and more sport content migrates to the internet legally.

“We will make sure that the quality of the stream from different markets is better in terms of resolution and price,” he pledged. “We will make announcements about measures that will ensure the quality in streams of internet delivery to Malta in the next three to six months.”

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