Leap in €10m joint venture with IBM and Lucent

12 Jan 2005

Broadband services provider Leap Broadband has entered into a €10m technology deal with Lucent Technologies and IBM Global Services to roll out SDSL, which provide advantages over existing ADSL services, as part of its local-loop unbundling (LLU) strategy.

Up until now, Leap has primarily focused on providing wireless broadband services but is now moving in the direction of fixed broadband services. The rollout will involve installing IBM and Lucent equipment directly into Eircom exchanges.

Leap claims that its LLU strategy will open up billions of euros worth of access network to the company allowing it to deliver next-generation broadband services to the Irish business market. Leap is expected to invest €10m over the next three years in its LLU programme.

The first two exchanges, Crown Alley and Beggars Bush, will go live in the next two weeks, with what Leap director Charlie Ardagh claims will be a “steady stream” of exchanges coming on line in Dublin and the cities of Cork, Galway and Limerick over the next 18 months.

Leap’s rapid LLU strategy will surely raise eyebrows amongst other broadband providers such as Esat BT that has struggled to speed up the LLU process in Ireland, where only some 2,200 lines have been unbundled so far.

SDSL is a technology that allows more data to be sent over existing copper telephone lines. SDSL supports data rates up to 3Mbps. SDSL works by sending digital pulses in the high-frequency area of telephone wires and can not operate simultaneously with voice connections over the same wires. SDSL requires a special modem. SDSL is called symmetric because it supports the same data rates for upstream and downstream traffic. A similar technology that supports different data rates for upstream and downstream data is ADSL, which is used by both Eircom and Esat BT in Ireland. ADSL is more popular in North America, whereas SDSL is being developed primarily in Europe.

Jim Dwyer, sales manager of Lucent Technologies Ireland, said: “The Lucent solution is state of the art in terms of technology, speed and cost-efficiency, which enables Leap to continue its innovation in the fast-growing broadband field.

“Lucent is sure that Leap will see a significant and immediate take up of SDSL by businesses currently on ADSL as it is a higher performance full service facility that enables the full range of broadband features, such as VOIP, available today,” Dwyer said.

Ian McDonald, senior consultant with Mason Communications, said that growing consumer and business needs are likely to drive operators to offer enhanced services such as SDSL. “Over the next 12 months, people will get used to 512kbps [ADSL speed] and start to want more. There’s going to be increased demand for symmetric broadband services. Asymmetric is fine if all you do is download, but if you’re sharing files or working from home, you need higher speeds in both directions.”

By John Kennedy