The Malta Communications Authority (MCA), through survey it conducted, has reported a 20 per cent decline in fixed telephony service subscriptions since 2019. Interestingly enough, the survey found that 18 per cent of those that do not have a subscription for fixed telephony services expressed no intention to acquire one in the future, “a stark contrast to the less than one per cent recorded in 2019.”

The survey was designed to assess how consumers perceive fixed telephony services in Malta. It provides insights from the consumer’s perspective, covering various aspects such as pricing sensitivity, decision-making related to switching providers, effectiveness of customer care procedures and the overall quality of the customer service experience.

The MCA noted that the previous survey for fixed telephony services was conducted a few months before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically between July and September 2019. In contrast, the current survey marks the first review of these telephony services after the pandemic, resulting in a justified four-year gap between the two surveys rather than the usual two-year interval. “This historical context is crucial when comparing the results of both surveys.”

In fact, the decline in fixed telephony services was attributed to the popularity of mobile telephony as a viable alternative, whilst the utilisation of over-the-top services (OTTs – Messaging and Voice apps like WhatsApp, Messenger and Zoom) may have also played a part for for the decline in fixed telephony usage.

Nonetheless, despite a reported 20 per cent decline, “a substantial 76 per cent of current subscribers showed no intention of discontinuing their subscriptions, marking a significant increase from the 48 per cent reported in 2019. The decision to retain the service primarily hinges on its perceived utility.”

60% lacked awareness on their monthly spend on fixed telephony services

Notably, this survey reported that 60 per cent of its respondents’ lacked awareness on their monthly spending on fixed telephony services. However, the percentage of respondents who were unaware due to purchasing the service in a bundle increased from 39 per cent in 2019 to 55 per cent in 2023.

Most respondents subscribe to the entry-level plans, considering that their reported expenditure was in the ‘€0-€9.99’ monthly outlay category. The percentage of respondents under this category increased from seven per cent in 2019 to 20 per cent in 2023 marking a 13 per cent difference in four years.

On the other hand, 33 per cent of respondents stated that they were unaware of the applicable fixed-to-mobile call rates. Among the remaining two-thirds, opinions were evenly split with 30 per percent of participants perceiving these rates as expensive while 31 per cent considered them reasonable.

23% do no switch providers because its inconvenient

The survey also explored the perceived satisfaction of local providers, GO plc, Melita ltd and Epic. The majority (73 per cent) of the participants conveyed either high satisfaction or satisfaction with the quality of service provided by the provider. Although the percentage is high, the survey marked a 10-percentage point decline compared to 2019. “However, this may be due to 12 per cent of respondents saying they do not use the service.”

The rest of the respondents opted for the ‘least satisfied or ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘indifferent’ options. Despite so, most expressed no intention to change their service operators because 34 per cent identified bundling as the primary reason for staying, 24 per cent believe that all service providers offer the same services while 23 per cent do not switch because of the inconvenience.

Disconnections, faults and the quality of operators’ remedial actions

58 per cent of respondents indicated no disconnections or faults with their fixed line telephony service. However, 23 per cent reported encouraging between two and five faults in the year preceding the survey.

Among those who reported at least one fault, 55 per cent expressed satisfaction or high satisfaction with the response they received from their service provider.

“It is worth noting that these satisfaction levels were significantly lower by 22 percentage points compared to the 2019 figures,” MCA remarked.

Usage of OTTs increased by 10% in four years

Naturally, the proportion of respondents who frequently turn to OTT platforms as a viable alternative to fixed telephony services has increased from 41 per cent in 2019 to 51 per cent in 2023. In conjunction, the percentage of respondents who claimed they never used OTTs has decreased significantly from 23 per cent in 2019 to 12 per cent in 2023.

The majority of those who do not make use of such platforms, 76 per cent, cited lack of knowledge on how to use it as a primary barrier. On the other hand, MCA highlighted that the proportion of respondents who refrained from using OTTs due to a lack of internet access has significantly declined, dropping from 42 per cent in 2019 to 13 per cent in 2023.

Methodology: 802 randomly selected households reached out through CATI

EMCS Consulting conducted the survey, reaching out to 802 randomly selected households through Telephone Computer-assisted interviews (CATI) on behalf of the MCA.

The methodology employed in the most recent series of consumer surveys, including sampling, questionnaire design, fieldwork and weighting processes closely mirrored the approaches used in previous surveys.

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