VoIP firms hit out at slow broadband rollout

18 Apr 2006

The adoption of VoIP as a viable business tool is being hindered by the slow rollout of broadband, according to senior executives in two Irish companies providing VoIP services.

VoIP technology has the potential to facilitate worker mobility and effective telecommuting but these benefits are dependent on a suitable broadband structure with sufficient bandwidth to carry it, they claim.

“In Ireland VoIP is really only available to the corporate customer because they’re the only ones who can afford the bandwidth or the dedicated lines to use it. The SME is at a serious disadvantage because of the cost of broadband, the scarcity of broadband and the quality of broadband,” Feargal Brady, CEO of Blueface, told siliconrepublic.com.

“It’s the beginning of a catastrophe,” he added. “You need a leased line of some sort or you won’t be able to use it.” He added that trying to get bandwidth in Ireland is “like trying to get water in the desert” and that this presented a major obstacle to Ireland’s competitiveness.

“The problem with Ireland is the rollout of broadband has been rather slow,” said Michael Maher, chief operations officer of VoIP Ireland. Consequently, he added, there’s not a lot of awareness of VoIP because a lot of people can’t have it.

Maher said broadband rollout would be speeded up if competitors were given access to exchanges from Eircom. “The whole issue of local loop unbundling and the availability for other providers to go into the exchanges and put their DSLN equipment into the exchanges — that would speed up broadband rollout.

“Looking at what Eircom are actually doing with their assets I would say they’re sweating the assets and trying to get the maximum return out of their investment. They’re doing that by being a bit stubborn about letting the competition in.

“Hindsight is a great thing,” he continued. “Anybody coming into the Irish market now would ask themselves: ‘Why did the Government sell the crown jewels, namely the infrastructure, when most other countries have, under deregulation, held onto the wires in the ground and just sold the customer base. These countries have allowed competition to take place between companies in their efforts to acquire customers and they then charge them a fee for using the infrastructure. [A similar system in Ireland] would have allowed us to maintain and upgrade the infrastructure and we wouldn’t have this problem with the slowness in the rollout of broadband.

“There’s all sorts of different vested interests ensuring the rollout of broadband is slowed down from an Irish perspective at the moment,” he claimed.

By Niall Byrne