Businesses need broadband advantages spelt out, says Dempsey

25 Sep 2006

The spokesman for Eircom assured me that it is a pure coincidence that the incumbent cut prices by 25pc only a few days after the Irish telecoms regulator expanded its website to include broadband and fixed-line call costs.

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) launched its website last November to allow consumers compare and contrast mobile costs.

The new section of the site, launched a fortnight ago, now includes information from 13 operators on over 80 different home phone and internet packages.

“It was completely separate,” the Eircom spokesman explained about the price reduction earlier this week. “We had been planning these discounts for some time so it’s a coincidence. That said, broadband take-up in Ireland is growing and we’re hoping that the next three months will compound that growth.”

Under the new price range, which comes into place on 2 October, Eircom customers who use the 1MB Home Starter product will save €5 a month (16pc) as the price drops from €29.99 to €24.99. The price of Eircom’s Home Plus Product will drop by €10 to €29.99 a month. Eircom said this will save customers €120 off their annual bill.

Eircom customers who use the 3MB Home Pro broadband product will receive a reduction of €6.05 from €54.45 down to €48.40. The company said the price reductions will also apply to its wholesale customers. In terms of Eircom’s business products, the spokesman explained that the business broadband products are quintessentially the same as the consumer products “but without Vat”.

Broadband supply and demand has been a hot topic of debate as Ireland continually appears to be lagging behind in the league tables. A quarterly report from European telecoms group ECTA showed Ireland at 8pc penetration of population, compared with an average of 29.5pc for the original 15 EU countries.

But despite the low penetration, broadband prices have been falling and usage has risen 112pc in the past 12 months. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey TD explained: “Starting from a very low base three years ago we will reach 400,000 subscribers before this year is out. I’m certain that this target will be comfortably exceeded.
“Because we started so far behind we have tended to concentrate on supply but the real problem is demand. We just haven’t spelt out clearly what the positives are in relation to broadband, what it can help you to do to help you in your work, entertain you and improve the quality of your life,” Minister Dempsey said.

With Eircom claiming that over 80pc of all phone lines in Ireland are within reach of a broadband-enabled exchange, ComReg commissioner Mike Byrne agreed that the fundamental issue in Ireland is less about supply but more about actual demand. “The price is dropping and the speed of adoption is increasing but what the service providers need to do is educate businesses and consumers about what they can do with broadband once they have it.”

Byrne said the issue of increasing demand for broadband in Ireland will be the subject of a major conference today at Dublin’s Berkeley Court Hotel organised by the Department of Communications and ComReg. The conference will feature speakers such as David Jesse, managing director of eBay in Ireland, Dylan Collins of games company DemonWare and Peter Corcoran, founder of Concept Labs.

“We will look at the difference broadband connectivity can make for businesses and consumers,” he explained.
Byrne quoted a report by Chambers Ireland last year that identified the biggest barrier to the uptake of broadband services in Ireland by small and medium-sized firms is education about what the technology can do for them.

“The key is to encourage businesses, particularly smaller companies with home offices and small offices, to adopt the technology. Larger companies are well served in this country with connectivity but smaller companies aren’t,” Byrne

By John Kennedy

Pictured: ComReg Commissioner Mike Byrne and Communications Minister Noel Dempsey TD