ComReg seeks more information from Eircom

28 Oct 2005

New battle lines are being drawn in the ongoing local loop unbundling (LLU) impasse between the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and incumbent operator Eircom. ComReg last night said Eircom’s response to market requests this week had insufficient detail and failed to recognise the importance of LLU to the market.

It said it is seeking more information from Eircom on LLU as a matter of urgency.

Sources say ComReg’s response to Eircom’s market requirement document (MRD) is much earlier than the industry envisaged and comes within days of Communications Minister Noel Dempsey TD hinting that greater powers may be given to ComReg to resolve the LLU issue. As far as the Government is concerned, the fastest rollout of LLU is what needs to be achieved, Dempsey said.

Views on the issue are polarised with ComReg and the various access seekers at one end demanding Eircom open up the route to LLU and Eircom insisting because it is a business and no longer a state entity the access seekers should make the necessary investment.

Eircom said on Monday it would take 18 months and €13m for it to unbundle its network for use by other operators. The company said there currently is no case for LLU migration as demanded by access seekers Smart, Magnet and BT. It called on ComReg to convene an industry forum to define and agree the appropriate mechanisms for LLU/geographic number portability (GNP).

A spokesperson for Eircom told that the burden of the €13m investment should not fall on Eircom’s shoulders.

In the meantime, lobby groups such as IrelandOffline have been hitting out at Ireland’s consistent descent down international league tables on broadband such as the OECD, which placed Ireland at 14th out of 15 countries in terms of broadband penetration.

IrelandOffline chairman Damien Mulley commented: “We fear that unless ComReg asks the minister for increased powers and new laws, LLU will not be resolved by the end of the decade. These new powers/laws would include the ability of ComReg or the Competition Authority to split Eircom into wholesale and retail divisions.”

Last night ComReg said it was publishing Eircom’s MRD document it received on Monday. It said while it was still evaluating the document, its view is that Eircom’s response to industry requests was disappointing.

It said: “There is insufficient detail to permit the assessment of the reasonableness of the timescales and costs associated with the development of the GNP product requested.

“The document fails to recognise the central importance of LLU as a product to enable operators to provide innovative, higher-speed broadband products which, in turn, would benefit consumers in terms of price, choice and quality. It is ComReg’s view that LLU can play a critical role in meeting the national objectives in relation to broadband.

“The response fails to recognise obligations that ComReg believes Eircom has in terms of meeting its wholesale customers’ requests.

“In the context of moving this process forward, ComReg will be seeking additional information from Eircom in relation to its response as a matter of urgency and will continue to work closely with the access seekers on the issues.”

By John Kennedy