Faced with more months of legal wrangling with Eircom over local loop unbundling (LLU), the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) yesterday withdrew an enforcement direction on the telco that stipulated it meet with local loop access seekers in the industry to progress LLU.
LLU refers to the process by which the ‘last mile’ of Eircom’s copper network into homes and businesses is opened up for use by competitors. It is seen in many countries as a vital means of increasing the spread of DSL broadband. Eircom had sought a judicial review of ComReg’s actions following which it intended to appeal the direction.
In order to progress matters, ComReg has dropped this tactic and Eircom, for its part, has agreed to provide ComReg and the industry with its response to proposed new LLU developments by 24 October, 2005.
Reacting to the news, the Association for Alternative Licensed Telecoms Operators (ALTO) welcomed the move by ComReg to get the process for LLU moving again, saying Ireland was losing ground on broadband compared with other European countries.
“Ireland needs unbundling to work if we are to catch up on other European countries for broadband,” said Tom Hickey, chairman of ALTO. “We are far behind the field and are losing ground with a broadband penetration rate of just 3.8pc as opposed to the European average of almost 10pc. We also have the highest line-rental prices in the EU. We need proper LLU processes so that competition can develop in this market,” he said.
He added that, as Eircom had intended to appeal the direction, several months would have been added to the already significant delay on LLU, ComReg having made its original request last December.
According to the most recent ComReg data, at the end of 2003, LLU accounted for 5pc of all DSL connections; however, despite an increase in the actual number of unbundled lines, its proportion of total DSL lines has fallen to 1pc. This is in stark contrast to the experience of other countries such as Germany, France and Spain where unbundling has had a significant impact on the market.
By Brian Skelly