An overview of findings for a perception survey concerning mobile telephony usage in Malta

 The MCA is hereby publishing the mobile telephony survey findings gauging consumer perceptions of mobile telephony services offered in Malta. The relevant survey was carried out in 2019, in an environment that was completely different to that we are experiencing at the moment. The relevant survey highlights on many areas where the sector works in the best interests of consumers, particularly when it comes to the quality of service and measures to address complaints by the end user. The MCA acknowledges that the current situation may be a testing period for the sector’s providers in this respect, particularly as it adapts to the different needs and requirements that are emerging with a large population working from home and schools closed. It therefore commends any measures that are taken by service providers to support customers and to ensure that the overall positive results observed in normal times are maintained.

An overview of findings:

More people opting for a post-paid subscription and a smartphone

 Approximately 99% of all household respondents claim to have a mobile subscription. Comparing survey findings for the years 2017 and 2019, take-up of mobile telephony was strongest in the post-paid segment, with the proportion of respondents on a post-paid plan rising by six percentage points, from 35% in 2017 to 41%. One factor driving this change is the increasing usage of mobile data services. Interestingly, the share of respondents with a smartphone was up from 66% in 2017 to 71% in 2019.

 Rising monthly expenditure on the service

Overall, monthly expenditures on the mobile telephony are rising. In 2017, 83% of all respondents with a mobile subscription reported a monthly expenditure of up to €20, compared to 55% quoting such an expenditure in 2019. Meanwhile, the share of respondents quoting a monthly expenditure of between €20 and €49.99 was up from 10% to 23% during the same period, alongside a three percentage point rise in the share of subscriptions quoting a ‘€50 or more’ monthly expenditure.

However, a bigger chunk of respondents say they do not know their monthly expenditure, most likely a result of the rising number of respondents getting a post-paid subscription, which typically requires monthly payments via direct debit.

Cost of a one-minute voice call

Knowledge of a one-minute voice call is also minimal. This is somewhat expected given the availability of voice call allowances in today’s mobile telephony plans. However, among respondents that are aware of the cost of a one-minute mobile voice call, 58% find it ‘acceptable’, an increase of 17% over the previous study. The number of respondents that perceived the cost to be expensive stood at 22%, a decline of 14% over the previous study. Respondents that perceived the cost to be cheap too declined (23% in 2017 compared to 8% in 2019).

Strong usage of mobile data services and wi-fi

Around 55% of respondents with a mobile subscription report that they are aware of and use mobile data services, with considerable share of these saying they use such services on a daily basis. Biggest use is for social networking and emailing activities.

Usage of wi-fi plays a key role in the demand patterns for mobile data services as, for example, 46% of mobile data users say they use free public wi-fi to access mobile data services.


A satisfied customer base with limited switching activity

95% of all survey respondents saying they have a subscription claim they are satisfied (38%) to very satisfied (57%) with the service. Switching between operators remains low, with 92% of all respondents saying they have not switched operator in the previous two years. Significantly, 65% of those respondent saying they are dissatisfied with the current service say they would not switch operator.


Awareness and usage of OTT not strong as previous round but…

Notwithstanding the strong uptake of mobile data services, less respondents in 2019 say they are aware of and use mobile data services compared to the corresponding findings recorded in 2017. It remains to be seen whether this is a one-off outcome or whether the perceived decline in OTT usage trends will persist in forthcoming surveys.


Background to the survey function at the MCA

The MCA has been regularly carrying out the Consumer Perception Surveys on a two-yearly interval since 2008. The main purpose behind this exercise is to gather information on the level of satisfaction of local consumers with the products and services offered by electronic communication service providers and the extent to which these providers are able to address the demands of their clients. Given that these surveys have been carried out regularly for a number of years, survey results are indicative of how the needs of end-users have developed over time and how local service providers are dealing with changing demand over the years.

The results of these surveys also serve as an additional source of information for the MCA’s regulatory decisions, in order to ensure an environment that is conducive to sustainable competition and investment in view of the growing demands of the future.

Methodology and Fieldwork

The methodology used in the latest round of consumer surveys, including the sampling, questionnaire design, fieldwork and weighting processes followed similar approaches to previous surveys. The research methodology involved the use of Telephone Computer-assisted interviewing (CATI).

Consumers sampled were stratified according to the age composition of the Maltese population. Moreover, the interviews were distributed among Malta’s six official geographic regions and carried out across different socio economic categories of the Maltese population.

For a more comprehensive picture, a presentation encompassing the main survey findings is available on the MCA website via this link.

EMCS Consulting carried out the survey contacting 852 randomly selected households via telephone interviews (CATI) on behalf of the MCA.