The current authorisation or licensing regime is divided into three broad categories, namely:
- the General Authorisation for the provision of networks and services;
- spectrum licensing; and
- radio communications equipment licensing.
General authorisation for the provision of networks and services
In terms of the Electronic Communications (Regulation) Act (Chapter 399 of the Laws of Malta), undertakings wishing to provide electronic communications are required to notify the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) for a general authorisation to provide such services.
Furthermore, general authorisations established by the ECNSR shall include the following:
- the establishment and operation of a public communications network;
- publicly available telephone services;
- the provision of other publicly available electronic communications services;
- the provision of television and radio distribution services;
- the provision of non-public electronic communications services;
- publicly available telephone directories and directly enquiry services; and
- private electronic communications networks or services.
Before commencing its service, an undertaking wishing to provide an electronic communications network or an electronic communications service must first notify the MCA by completing the relevant notification form. The form must include all the requisite information provided for under Regulation 66 of the ECNSR.
Once the MCA acknowledges the undertaking’s submission of notification, the undertaking concerned is deemed to be authorised to provide an electronic communications network or service. However, this is subject to the conditions established in the ninth schedule to the ECNSR. Moreover, administrative charges are specified in the Eighth Schedule (Part A) of the ECNSR.
The duration of a general authorisation to provide an electronic communications service is unlimited, subject to ongoing compliance with the conditions attached to it. If there is a breach of these conditions, the MCA can take any actions that it deems to be suitable.
In line with the Electronic Communications (Regulation) Act, radio frequencies shall only be used in accordance with a general authorisation issued under the act or an explicit authorisation by the MCA. All types of technology used for electronic communications services may be used in the radio frequency bands declared available in the frequency plan in accordance with EU law, provided that restrictions may be imposed where necessary to avoid harmful interference, to ensure technical quality of service, and to safeguard the efficient use of spectrum, among other reasons provided for under article 40 of the Electronic Communications (Regulation) Act.
All types of electronic communications services may be provided in all radio frequency bands that are available in line with the frequency plan, subject to proportionate and non-discriminatory restrictions that may be imposed by the MCA including, where necessary, to fulfil a requirement under the ITU Radio Regulations. A measure that prohibits provision of any other electronic communications service in a specific band may only be provided for where this is justified by the need to protect safety of life.
The duration of a spectrum licence varies, depending on the type of licence.
Radiocommunications equipment licensing
Apart from the above-mentioned licensing categories, Part IV of the Electronic Communications (Regulation) Act addresses the need to obtain a licence for the installation or use of radiocommunications equipment, unless the equipment is covered by a general authorisation or licence exempt. Such licence exemptions are contemplated by the Radiocommunications Apparatus Exemption Order (SL 399.41). This particular order provides a list of radiocommunications apparatus that are exempted from the requirements of article 30 of the Electronic Communication (Regulation) Act.
The grant of individual licences is subject to the payment of the applicable licence fees to the MCA.
The MCA provides for the following application forms:
- application forms for the grant of rights to install or use radiocommunications equipment (eg, aeronautical, amateur radio, private mobile radios, radio links, satellite uplink, etc); and
- notification forms for the installation or use of certain radiocommunications equipment covered by a general authorisation (eg, VHF marine, EPIRBs, etc).
Licences granted under this category may be issued in accordance with the terms, conditions and limitations provided for by the MCA. Furthermore, a licence may also include specific limitations relating to the apparatus that may be installed or utilised by the licensee, and it may also specify the places where such apparatus may be utilised. Notably, such a licence may be rescinded, and the terms and conditions or limitation may be varied by a notice issued by the MCA in writing, either directly to the licensee or by a general notice published in the Government Gazette.
Unless this type of licence is revoked by the MCA, it shall remain in force for such a period as may be specified in the licence.
With regard to public Wi-Fi services, the MCA in association with other entities has been working on a nationwide project with the intention of setting up free Wi-Fi internet points on the Maltese islands. The project was launched with the aim of boosting the use of the internet through the use of portable devices. This service complements the appropriate security measures, which mainly include filters against unlawful and improper content.
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