ComReg site to tackle fixed line and broadband

10 Nov 2005

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is planning to expand its initiative aimed at pricing transparency in the mobile sector to include broadband and fixed-line costs over the coming months.

ComReg this morning launched the web iniative that features interactive calculators that enables consumers to compare and contrast what they are paying for mobile packages based on their typical usage.

At present more than 3.8 million people in Ireland use mobile phones and each mobile phone users spends on average €54 per month on their mobile phone. While tariff information from operators is available, consumers find it difficult to compare and rank the range of packages available.

In an interview with ComReg commissioner Mike Byrne stressed that the website was developed in full co-operation with the four local operators – Vodafone, O2, Meteor and 3.

“Since we announced our intentions to carry out this exercise, we have already witnessed various innovations and simplifications by each of the operators,” he said.

“There is a recognition by all the operators that this is a very user-friendly tool for the consumer. It is designed to make pricing plans easier. ComReg has three fundamental goals – to promote competition, support innovation and promote the interests of consumers – it is a statutory role we take very seriously,” Byrne explained.

Byrne said in the months ahead ComReg is planning to augment the website with further information on broadband and fixed-line prices. “We have been working on this for over a year now and it will be followed by other phases. We plan to add in fixed-line and broadband products in time. It will be a phased process. We believe that the mobile area, for obvious reasons, was a good place to start,” he said.

ComReg’s initiative was welcomed by consumer lobby group IrelandOffline, whose chairman Damien Mulley said: “Anything that can help a consumer save money on their monthly telecoms bills is always welcome especially when the average Irish user pays the highest amount in the EU for mobiles, a whopping €17 more than the EU average. While a website can save a consumer some money by finding the best bargains, major price savings will come about with more competition, which ComReg recognised by introducing MVNOs. Hopefully the Electronic Communications Appeals Panel [ECAP] will take ComReg’s view on this.”

In terms of plans to bring further competition to the Irish mobile market in the form of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), Byrne said that although an appeal by O2 and Vodafone has yet to be heard by the ECAP the various MVNO access seekers are currently in negotiations with some of the existing operators. “Our hope and wish is that those negotiations will be successful and are still aiming to grant space for MVNOs in the Irish market.”

However, at a results briefing this afternoon, the chief operating officer of BT Ireland Mike Maloney, whose company harbours plans to become an MVNO in the Irish marketplace just like its parent company in the UK has through an alliance with Vodafone, said that negotiations with mobile operators in the Irish marketplace so far have failed to result in an agreement.

By John Kennedy