Global Connector and wi-fi all part of Melita’s convergence strategy. Interview with Melita CEO Andrei Torriani.
Put yourself in Andrei Torriani’s position: Thousands of customers are switching to Dreambox or Go to watch premium content like sport. If you were the Melita CEO how would you kill both birds with one stone?
You launch Global Connector, which enables your clients to use Melita broadband to connect to any TV channel in any country, bypassing the IP address which gives your location away, and hey presto, you can watch anything from your favourite football team in Italy to the latest episode of Downton Abbey.
“We have created a virtual tunnel to countries, so for example, you appear to a content provider in the UK as though you are in the UK. But this does not infringe their territorial restrictions. All we are doing is acting as a Virtual Private Network,” he said.
Will it cannibalise Melita’s own TV customers? He believes that the fact that channels like Discovery are not on national television channel line-ups means the two services will complement each other. And at least it will retain customers who might otherwise drift to Dreambox.
“This is not a fight that politicians want to tackle as it will not win votes. And there are too many providers for us to chase and close down. The best way to fight this is to enable people to see whatever they want to see for minimal cost. We see this as an enablement product so we will only make a marginal profit on it,” he said.
The soft launch of Global Connector comes hot on the heels of TV Everywhere, an app which allows users to watch television on a tablet or smartphone in the house or anywhere else they want. It was an instant success and the app was downloaded an impressive 10,000 times in just two weeks.
And there is more: Melita plans to launch a nationwide, outdoors, wi-fi service offering top speeds and quality of service so consumers will be able to seamlessly log in just once on their devices and be able to go anywhere in Malta.
“Initially we will provide coverage where we see the highest outdoor data consumption on mobile networks but we will eventually extend it,” he said.
Mr Torriani was non-commital with regards to their plans to launch 4G although it seems that he has his reservations, as he pointed out that 60 per cent of handsets in Malta do not even have 3G capability – let alone 4G – while most have wi-fi access. He also pointed out that, while the speed of a 4G network decreases as more people use it (unless there is considerable investment in new base stations), a wi-fi network depends on the existing fibre broadband network – which is quite capable of coping with the pressure.
And Melita can cope, he said, as it will be in a position to offer nationwide speeds of up to 350 Mbps within a short time. This is already available at Midi and Fort Cambridge and other areas in Sliema will soon be added.
“Even though we could have offered high speeds, we started off with lower ones because the speed has to be demand driven; customers have to know why they would want higher speeds. But this is happening. Demand for data is increasing by 50 per cent per year. We expect that, within three years time, networks can be upgraded just through software software at the core – which means no digging up of roads! – to deliver 10GB download and 1GB upload speeds, which is 1,000 times faster than what we offer now.”
Mr Torriani said services like Global Connector and wi-fi were all part of a convergence strategy, which would not be possible without the €75 million investment made over the past few years, with a further €60 million planned in the coming five.
He sees the future as being a journey of traffic moving from fixed line to voice and from mobile to internet. He recalled that Melita had little choice but to make the move to mobile.
“Today, over 50 per cent of telephony starts on a mobile – which was not the case two or three years ago. Then it was 70-80 per cent from fixed, and only 20-30 from mobile, and the change was brought about by us because the previous incumbents used to charge so much,” he noted.
The 2009 investment in mobile has finally paid off. The Malta Communications Authority reported that in the first half of the year, Melita won 45 per cent of new customers.
Although all these services are also relevant to business, companies have specific needs. One was the need for data collocation, and Melita’s new centre at its head-end in Madliena should fill this gap in its offering.
Another is solving the latency issue that plagues Malta – basically a miniscule delay caused by the distance from main nodes in the network which can nevertheless be critical for time-sensitive operators like financial services and i-gaming companies.
“We managed to overcome this by extending our dedicated fibre to Milan, from where we can connect to all the Tier One connectivity partners, ensuring the best quality of service. You can compare this to having a direct flight rather than having to hop from airport to airport,” he said.
Mr Torriani ticked off all these services and benefits and smiled.
“It makes me laugh to hear some people still refer to us as Melita Cable. Over the past four or five years, Melita has transformed from its legacy as a pay TV cable business to a very dynamic progressive converged, fully-fledged telecom provider. We are continuing on that journey. All our investments have been geared towards diversifying the business and offering consumers what we think is a better choice.”
Article courtesy of www.timesofmalta.com as published on 24 October 2013, by Vanessa Macdonald