The Maltese Communications Authority still hopes to publish a new edition of the printed telephone book to update the volume last published in 2004.

Poll found some people still wanted a printed directory

Sources say the authority has embarked on a new attempt through talks with Go and another interested company to finally complete the print edition, two years after the first attempt failed.

In early 2010, the MCA issued a decision on universal service obligations for electronic communications services. Universal services are the minimum set of electronic communications services considered essential for the general public, and the MCA has listed access to fixed telephone services, a printed directory and directory inquiry services, and access to public telephones as such.

These services must be available on reasonable demand without distorting competition and must be provided at an affordable price.

To this end, in the same year, the MCA issued a call to interested parties for the printing of an updated telephone directory. Four companies came forward – Media Today Co. Ltd and Yellow Pages (Malta) Ltd were interested in the print version, while Abakus Solutions showed up 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 screened out in June of last year because they had not met the eligibility criteria set out in the same decision.

Then, in August, the only remaining bidder for the print version was also eliminated during final negotiations on terms and conditions. The authority declared that the conditions put forward by the applicant did not meet the requirements of universal service.

“In accordance with the universal service obligation decision, MCA has entered into discussions with Go plc, as the incumbent operator of fixed telephony services, to provide this universal service. In the meantime, a third party has shown an active interest in publishing a printed telephone directory on its own.

If this development takes place, a printed directory could well be published without it being necessary to impose it as an obligation, ”confirmed a spokesperson for the authority. The need to print an updated edition of the phone book was felt about three years ago, after an independent investigation commissioned by the MCA found that some people still wanted a printed phone book.

However, the exercise, which so far has not been very successful, must be seen in the context of current trends in the Maltese communications sector.

Go provides an online directory which contains both landline and mobile phone numbers of all communication operators in Malta. It is available free of charge at www.go.com.mt.

Users can call with queries on the phone numbers 1182 for Go landline, 1187 for Go mobile and 1189 for Vodafone numbers.

Since the introduction of number portability in 2006, Maltese landline and mobile users can change communication company while keeping the same number. This could make it easier to keep a printed telephone directory up to date.

On the other hand, the MCA has shown that over the past two years, the number of mobile subscriptions has exploded from around 422,000 at the end of 2009 to nearly 522,000 at the end of last year. At the same time, the number of active fixed telephone lines increased from around 246,000 to 232,000.

And according to SocialBakers.com, more than half of the Maltese population is on Facebook.

These statistics show that the Maltese have become mobile and that landline use is slowly dying out – raising the question of the real need for a printed phone book.

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