The burgeoning digitisation has set the stage for the future communications, amongst trends such as the rising take-up of faster broadband connections, calls for a safer and more reliable digital environment, and the accelerating pace of eCommerce - just to name a few.
For the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), 2021 marked a significant year in more ways than one, as we continued to monitor Malta’s communications industry and ensure it delivers on its high standards of quality. Here are just some of the highlights of the MCA’s work and developments which have shaped our regulatory remit in the last year:
Empowering Consumers - Re-vamp of Telecosts
In January 2021, the MCA launched a re-vamped version of Telecosts, an easy and free-to-use price comparison portal for mobile telephony, fixed telephony, internet, as well as bundled services for telephony, internet and TV. It allows consumers to conveniently filter all the available local tariff plans and find the one which best suits their preferences. Since the launch, over 12,400 users have logged onto Telecosts searching for their ideal plan.
Supporting Competition and Industry Growth – 61% of Fixed Broadband Subscriptions for 100Mbps or greater
Malta boasts nationwide gigabit connectivity, already fulfilling the European Commission’s 2025 Gigabit society objectives, and ranking 8th in the EU in connectivity in the Commission’s latest Digital and Economy Society Index (DESI).
Today, 61% of Maltese fixed broadband consumers subscribed to connections of 100Mbps or higher. Local operators are continually investing in the deployment of high-speed fixed and mobile broadband networks – with the support of our regulatory efforts in promoting investment, encouraging innovation, and supporting competition.
We also regularly collect data on both the electronic communications and postal markets, which are published in bi-annual market reviews, quarterly market data updates and surveys.
Monitoring Quality of Service and Transparency - 195 Complaints Received in 2021
In 2021, the MCA issued several consultations and decisions related to quality of service of electronic communications, one instance being its Decision on the availability of an adequate broadband internet access service, as a universal service, thereby ensuring that citizens and businesses are able to access these basic reliable services regardless of where they live or work.
Moreover, in its efforts to safeguard the interests of consumers of the electronic communications, postal and eCommerce sectors, the MCA operates a complaint and enquiry procedure as well as carries out various mystery shopping exercises to identify areas of concern – the results of which are published in reports throughout every year. From the latest of such reports, it emerged that the MCA received 195 complaints in 2021 – an increase of 9% over the previous year.
Ensuring safe and reliable communications networks – 260 Electromagnetic Field (EMF) audits carried out
We continuously evaluate networks in order to identify any potentially harmful interferences – taking the necessary action wherever needed - and to ensure that Electromagnetic Field (EMF) levels remain well-within the established safety limits.
Safeguarding postal sector sustainability in light of fresh challenges – Quarterly data updates and Postal Consumer Surveys
The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of post as an essential service, while creating challenges as well as opportunities for the postal sector. In 2021, the MCA started compiling responses for three Postal Consumer Surveys and published the results of two market reviews. Research initiatives such as these allow us to take informed decisions on the future of the postal sector.
Facilitating 5G roll-out – 100% 5G coverage
In 2021, the MCA finalised the regulatory framework for the deployment of next generation 5G wireless networks, and we now have three operators licensed to use this technology, with 100% 5G coverage of all populated areas across Malta and Gozo.
Supporting the development of eCommerce – Launch of eBiznify Lite
As part of its efforts to encourage local enterprises to engage in eCommerce and undergo digital transformation, in partnership with the eSkills Malta Foundation, the MCA launched eBiznify Lite in July 2021 – an ongoing eCommerce online training programme. Shortly after, a new intake for eBiznify Certified – an accredited programme - was launched in December, for which 30 individuals successfully registered.
The MCA also published the results of two eCommerce surveys in 2021, from which it arose that 53% of digital buyers in 2020 had purchased from online suppliers based in Malta.
Monitoring and Supervising Digital Services – MCA designated as Digital Services Coordinator (DSC)
The MCA is responsible for supervising the provision of digital services in line with our remit as well as monitoring web accessibility as a means of digital inclusion. In 2021, the Authority carried out 412 checks of eCommerce websites and carried out 105 web accessibility assessments.
In 2021, the MCA was also given the mandate to administer the provisions of the Platform to Business (P2B) Regulation and in June, the Government designated the MCA as the Digital Services Coordinator (DSC) for the Digital Services Act (DSA) - a set of new landmark EU rules for a safer and more trusted digital space, expected to come into force in 2022.
Increased EU and International Involvement – MCA CEO as BEREC Vice-Chair 2021
MCA CEO, Jesmond Bugeja, has been acting Vice-Chair for 2021 within the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), marking the first time the MCA has occupied a position within BEREC’s esteemed leadership team. Several other MCA officials occupy highly respected positions across international bodies responsible for the electronic communications and postal sectors, reflective of the Authority’s increasingly active international involvement, and of the trust in the regulatory work of the MCA, both in the national and international sphere.
Unlocking Digital Value for Society – MCA’s 20th Anniversary Conference
Evidently, 2021 was marked by several noteworthy developments in the MCA’s agenda, but most pertinently, 2021 marked 20 years since the establishment of the MCA in 2001 – a milestone which was commemorated by a hybrid international conference held on the 25th November. The conference, brought featured several panels and presentations with local and international experts on the theme of “Unlocking Digital Value for Society”, stimulating food for thought on the MCA’s vision for future connectivity and digital services.