ComReg chases DSL data

22 Jul 2003

Efforts are under way by the communications regulator ComReg to compel Eircom to provide other telecoms operators with data that would allow them to ascertain whether customer lines are suitable for digital subscriber line (DSL) service.

Yesterday ComReg published a decision notice regarding the provision of bulk line data – that is, information on many of the lines at once rather than on a demand-only basis – to other licenced operators. In the paper, the regulator has outlined the requests of other telcos, represented by Esat BT, to have a new product capable of providing the technical characteristics of lines. However Eircom indicated to ComReg last week that it does not intend to provide this data in bulk format.

The issue is important because the provision of DSL depends on the quality of the copper-wire telephone network. In its decision notice, ComReg said: “DSL is not a ubiquitous technology and it is expected that a proportion of lines will not be capable of carrying DSL. For example, lines which may fulfil Eircom’s USO obligation – such as longer lines or those provided by way of a carrier system – may not be suitable for carrying DSL.”

The regulator has indicated that it is vital for operators when building their business cases to have access to reliable information about the percentage of lines which are DSL capable. This data can also be used to define the DSL product set, for example, providing information that makes it possible to calculate the available DSL rates on the line.

Eircom, as the network owner, holds records on the copper access network setting out technical characteristics of all lines. The company recently rolled out a system to its key exchanges, which regularly tests the lines connected to those exchanges and stores the relevant information in a series of databases. Under the present system however, other operators must make a pre-order request with Eircom for each line in order to establish whether or not it can carry a DSL signal. It is a manual and time-consuming process for all parties; according to ComReg it has resulted in inefficiencies and poor service to consumers who want to know if their lines are suitable for DSL.

Since April of this year, Esat BT has led calls for this line data to be provided in bulk format. Eircom initially proposed to provide this information on a monthly basis in CD-Rom format, but it has not supplied the first disc as promised. Late last week, Eircom informed ComReg that it does not intend to provide this bulk line data; however the regulator said that the telecoms firm ought to do so, as it constitutes a ‘related facility’, where access to the data is necessary for a beneficiary to provide services on a competitive and fair basis.

By Gordon Smith