MCA still hoping to publish traditional telephone book
The Malta Communications Authority is still hoping to publish a new edition of the printed telephone directory to update the volume that was last issued in 2004.
Sources say the authority has embarked on a fresh attempt through talks with Go and another interested company to finally realise the printed edition, two years after the first attempt failed.
Early in 2010, the MCA issued a decision on universal service obligations on electronic communications services. Universal services are the minimum set of electronic communication services considered essential to the general public, and the MCA listed access to fixed telephony services, a printed directory and directory enquiry services, and access to public payphones as such.
These services should be available on reasonable request without distorting competition, and must be provided at an affordable price.
To this effect, that same year the MCA issued a call for interested parties in printing an updated telephone directory. Four companies came forward – Media Today Co. Ltd and Yellow Pages (Malta) Ltd were interested in the printed version, while Abakus Solutions came forward for the online version. Malta Directories Ltd was interested in both. However, following an evaluation process by an adjudication committee, two of the bidders were eliminated in June last year as they had not met the eligibility criteria established in the same decision.
Then in August, the sole remaining bidder for the printed version was also eliminated during the final negotiations on the terms and conditions. The authority said the conditions put forward by the applicant did not satisfy the requirements of the universal service.
“In line with the universal service obligation decision, the MCA began discussions with Go plc, as the incumbent in fixed telephony services, to provide this universal service. In the meantime, a third party entity has shown an active interest to publish a printed telephone directory on its own accord.
If this development takes place a printed directory could well be published without the need to impose it as an obligation,” an authority spokesman confirmed. The need to print an updated edition of the telephone directory was felt some three years ago after an independent survey commissioned by the MCA had revealed that some people still wanted a printed directory.
However, the exercise, which so far has not been very successful, has to be taken in context of the current trends in the Maltese communications sector.
Go provides an online directory that contains both fixed line and mobile numbers of all communication operators in Malta. It is available free of charge at www.go.com.mt.
Users can call with queries on telephone numbers 1182 for Go fixed, 1187 for Go mobile, and 1189 for Vodafone numbers.
Since the introduction of number portability in 2006, Maltese fixed line and mobile users have been able to switch their communications company while retaining the same number. This could make it easier to keep an update printed telephone directory.
On the other hand, the MCA has shown that in the last two years, the number of mobile subscriptions has shot up, from around 422,000 at the end of 2009 to almost 522,000 at the end of last year. At the same time, the number of active fixed telephony lines has decreased from around 246,000 to 232,000.
And according to SocialBakers.com, more than half the Maltese population is on Facebook.
These statistics show that the Maltese have gone mobile and that the use of fixed-lines is slowly dying – raising the question on the real need of a printed telephone directory.