Colt criticises comms competition in Ireland


8 Dec 2003

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The CEO of Colt Telecom, Steve Akin, has slammed what he perceives as “stifling market conditions” and called for a more level playing field in Ireland’s telecoms market.

In an interview with siliconrepublic.com, Akin expressed concern at the regulatory situation in the Irish telecoms sector where despite deregulation starting in 1998, incumbent operator Eircom still has significant control of the local market and is locked in a legal battle with the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) over its wholesale pricing to alternative carriers such as Colt and Esat BT.

Describing Ireland as “unusual” in the context of deregulation in other markets, Akin said: “We would like to see a more competitive landscape and market prices for alternative carriers. Ireland has done a good job in being a competitive place to do business, but this impasse is seriously threatening that perception. In the Irish market there is lack of competition to the extent that prices are erratic and stifling competition.

“Deregulation needs to speeded up if alternative carriers are going to survive and prosper in the Irish market. If that happens then there’s a real opportunity to support Ireland Inc. Without it, Ireland is less competitive and blind in its competitive ability. The telcoms market in Ireland needs a level playing field if you are going to have anything that resembles a liberalised market.”

The managing director of Colt in Ireland, Gary Keogh, added: “There is a clear focus on ComReg to see that deregulation is enforced. We’ll see what will happen with the new commissioner. The present situation is not helping business to grow.”

In Dublin last week, Akin revealed to siliconrepublic.com that the company has commenced hosting, international connectivity and VPN-oriented work with eBay’s online payment processing firm PayPal, which is in the process of creating 400 jobs in Blanchardstown.

The company also revealed that it has sublet some of its internet data centre in Dublin to the search engine giant Google. Colt had established an internet data centre on the Long Mile Road but the telecoms industry downturn, which resulted in the closure of 11 out of 22 data centres in Dublin, caused the company to suffer an €11m write-down. This resulted in total losses in the Irish market of €20.1m at the end of 2002. The deal with Google should provide a much-needed cash boost to Colt’s beleaguered operations and result in the much-needed return on investment for the data centre.

A global telecom provider of voice and data connectivity as well as data centre solutions to blue-chip firms that include 11 of Europe’s stock exchanges as well as MTV Networks Europe and Bloomberg.com, Colt has more than 150km of high-speed cable running across Dublin. Locally the company supplies voice and data services to organisations that include the Department of Foreign Affairs, HP and Oracle.

By John Kennedy