Smart plans 2MB residential broadband service

8 Feb 2005

Up and coming business and consumer telecoms player Smart Telecom is about to introduce to the Irish marketplace a new 2Mbps residential broadband service that will cost homes €35 per month. The new service will include voice and will have no monthly line rental for the first 100,000 customers.

It is understood that the plans at this point are aspirational insofar as they will depend on the unbundling of the local loop through a succession of agreements with Eircom.

At present local loop unbundling (LLU) is a contentious issue with both the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and various independent telcos castigating Eircom for the slow rate of LLU taking place. Last week ComReg threatened Eircom with legal action after it failed to report on its progress. On 18 January the regulator issued a decision notice requiring the former state telco to provide an update on the LLU issue.

AIM-listed Smart Telecom said yesterday that it will begin the national rollout of its service from next week if Eircom opens up its exchanges.

The company said that the 2Mbps service – which it claims is four times faster than existing DSL services – will have no upload or download limits.

Smart intends to rollout the nationwide broadband service in four phases, beginning with Dublin. The second phase will cover Cork, Galway, Letterkenny, Limerick and Waterford.

The third phase will cover Arklow, Athlone, Ballina, Carlow, CK-on-Shannon, Dundalk, Ennis, Kilkenny, Mallow, Mullingar, Naas, Portlaoise, Shannon, Sligo, Thurles, Tullamore, Tralee, Wexford.

The fourth and final phase will cover urban locations be based upon the Government’s metropolitan area network (MAN) rollout.

On the financial front, Smart Telecom boss Oisin Fanning said that a special purpose funding vehicle to facilitate the roll-out of the nationwide broadband network has been oversubscribed by investors. The company last year commenced trading on the London Alternative Investment Market and raised €15m. With a shareprice of 36p sterling, the company was the largest trading company on the AIM at the close of business on 4 February last.

As well as unveiling its ambitious nationwide broadband plan, Smart also revealed a 97pc revenue growth to €24.9m for the year ending in December 2004. Gross profits increased from €4.9 million to €6.8 million.

Commenting on the imminent broadband service Fanning said: “We will be significantly cheaper, and at 2MB, four times as fast as other telecommunications players in the Irish market.

Being able to offer broadband at an affordable price to the consumer will make this technology far more accessible to all households. Smart Telecom is now in a position to satisfy today’s consumers’ needs for modern telecommunication products and services,” Fanning said.

By John Kennedy