MediaToday
News | Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Melita Mobile launch leads to ‘Third-Generation’ fracas among mobile operators

Charlot Zahra

The launch of Melita Mobile on 1 February this year unleashed a torrent of controversy, amid claims and counter-claims about Melita Mobile’s subscriber base after the first two weeks of operations.
Asked to elaborate about the impact of Melita Mobile on Vodafone and GO Mobile’s subscriber base, Alison Bezzina - Melita Mobile Marketing Manager, told Business Today:
“As stated publicly, 10,000 customers joined Melita Mobile in the first week. The numbers continue to grow and we are now well beyond the 10,000 mark.”
“This has been an overwhelming response,” she added.
Asked whether they agreed with GO Mobile’s claim as reported in The Times last Friday that “much less” than 10,000 subscribers had switched to Melita Mobile in the first week of operations or not, Bezzina said that “such a reaction can only be described as silly and a clear sign of panic.
“Instead of reacting to our offers, GO is nitpicking on details which are irrelevant to their customers. Customers care about prices and service and not about respective subscriber numbers,” Bezzina insisted.
“If GO do not believe our statement, then they can only wait for the quarterly report which we are legally bound to submit to the MCA. Of course, by the end of Q1 the number will be much higher,” she told Business Today.
Bezzina explained that after all, Melita never said that 10,000 customers “left GO to migrate to Melita. GO seem to have forgotten that there are three other local mobile operators on the island and came out with this generic negation.
“I don’t blame them for panicking – I would probably be very worried if I had to be sitting in their seat,” Bezzina told Business Today.
Asked to state how many Vodafone and GO Mobile subscribers respectively had ported their services to Melita Mobile from 1 February 2009 to date, Bezzina did not answer specifically about the matter.
“As much as I would like to, this is still a very difficult task since porting of mobile numbers is taking exceptionally long periods of time to complete – way beyond the time specified by the MCA,” Bezzina said.
“Therefore, any number which we publish at this time, will be a misleading figure as in some cases, porting has taken even up to 6 days,” she contended.
Asked to elaborate how many first-time mobile subscribers had Melita acquired from launch to date, Bezzina did not answer specifically.
“We couldn’t have been more encouraged by the overwhelming response received from our customers in the first week. More than 10,000 mobile phone users cannot be wrong – we must be giving a great service for the cheapest price,” she said.
Other mobile phone operators were still evaluating the impact of Melita Mobile on their subscriber base.
Asked about the impact of Melita Mobile’s launch on Vodafone Malta’s subscriber base, and whether this was as expected or beyond their expectations, a spokesperson for Vodafone Malta told Business Today: “Melita‘s claim have triggered queries from our customers about the charges per minute or per second on the calls made and to explain Melita’s terms and conditions,” she insisted.
“Competition has not brought anything new to the market and we have not seen an impact other than a similar experience Vodafone came across over the past few months when two other new entrants launched before Melita,” the Vodafone Malta spokesperson told Business Today.
Asked for Vodafone’s reaction to Melita Mobile’s claim that more than 10,000 subscribers had switched to Melita Mobile in the first week of operation, the Vodafone Malta spokesperson asked us to “address this question to Melita.”
“From our end, the subscribers who migrated to Melita were mostly Melita’s personnel,” she contended.
Asked to state how many Vodafone subscribers have ported their services to Melita Mobile from 1 February 2009 to date if Melita’s figure was not true, the Vodafone Malta spokesperson told Business Today: “We are not saying the figure is not true.
“As we said above, from our end the subscribers who went to Melita were mostly Melita’s personnel,” she explained. “We just experienced a few hundred port-outs,” the Vodafone Malta spokesperson contended.
Asked how many first-time subscribers had Vodafone Malta acquired since the launch of Melita Mobile, the Vodafone Malta spokesperson told Business Today: “After the Christmas campaign where we got 10,000 new connections on board, our focus has been on giving more value to our existing customers rather than acquiring new customers.”
On his part, a spokesperson for GO told Business Today that GO had been evaluating the impact of the launch of Melita and has continued offering its customers the best-value offers such as the doubling of GO Mobile talk-time when topping up with €20 and €50 – which has proven to be very popular once again, and the €100 when one connects and tops up with GO Mobile.
Last weekend, GO launched an offer that provides pre-paid and contract or post-paid customers that purchase a new phone the equivalent of free talk-time.
“This means that only GO provides free mobile phones also to pre-paid Pay as you Go customers. At the same time, for the past year or so, GO has been offering free phones to its Pay Monthly contract plan customers,” the GO spokesperson told Business Today.
In the coming days and weeks, the company will be launching more initiatives aimed at both the contract and the pre-paid market.
Asked for the company’s reaction to Melita Mobile’s claim of 10,000 subscribers in the first week of operation, and how many GO Mobile subscribers had switched over to Melita Mobile, the GO Mobile spokesperson gave a generic answer.
“We have seen a lot of loyalty from our customers’ point of view, and our numbers show that the level of customers keeping their GO Mobile number and switching over is within normal levels,” the GO spokesperson told Business Today.
This was because GO Mobile customers knew that with GO “they get the optimal level of customer care 24x7, the lowest rates starting from as low as 7c a minute and 2c per SMS, a trustworthy communications company, innovative applications such as wireless Internet and BlackBerry, the best level of mobile coverage reception, and many other reasons,” he said.

czahra@mediatoday.com.mt

 

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18 February 2009
ISSUE NO. 570

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