Eircom refutes bitstream diversion claims

18 Mar 2005

Eircom’s commercial director David McRedmond said he disagreed with claims by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), IrelandOffline and Esat BT that the upgrading of bitstream access services may distract the public from the issue of automated local loop unbundling (LLU).

On Wednesday, it was reported that while doubling of broadband speeds was broadly welcomed by Esat BT, ComReg and IrelandOffline they were anxious that it was realised that bitstream does not actually equate to full LLU whereby other operators such as Smart Telecom and Leap Broadband could offer advanced telecom services such as voice over internet protocol.

Last Monday, Eircom revealed plans to transform the speed of broadband services currently available in Ireland by increasing the entry level or standard speed of its bitstream service from 512Kbps to 1Mbps for all wholesale and retail customers by 8 April. As well as this the company said speeds for higher specification residential and business customers will increase to between 2Mbps and 4Mbps, which it said would push Ireland higher up the European league tables for entry level or standard broadband.

Bitstream access gives alternative providers less exposure to investment risk but conversely also less control over the DSL service portfolio and limits the potential to offer next-generation telecoms services such as VoIP and other bundled applications likely to define the future of telecoms. On the other hand, LLU and the automation of the process, which is currently the subject of a High Court case between Eircom and ComReg scheduled for 13 April, would free up telcos to more rapidly provide bundled services.

Esat BT commercial director Peter Evans argued that because the current LLU process is manual rather than automated sometimes getting a customer ported to a new line can take up to six weeks.

Commissioner John Doherty said: “We need real competition and believe that LLU can provide that. Bitstream is not fit for the purpose of a modern telecommunications network in Ireland, either from a business or a consumer perspective.”

In his company’s defence McRedmond told siliconrepublic.com: “I don’t consider it [the doubling of bitstream bandwidth] a distraction in the slightest. Every person who has broadband will see their bandwidth doubled. ComReg is out of touch if it considers real value and performance a distraction.”

McRedmond continued: “Because the whole issue of LLU is the subject of a forthcoming High Court hearing, there is a limit to what I can say. This word ‘automation’ that keeps getting brought up – the reality is the whole technology has yet to be specked out. LLU exists, companies have access to LLU and two companies have said they’re providing services on the back of it.

“LLU is a manual process by definition. Automation of the LLU has often been mentioned but right now it is only a concept, the technology needs to be developed. I couldn’t say I understand what they are referring to. The fact that we provide LLU and other services and the fact that companies haven’t taken them up can’t be blamed on Eircom.

“Ireland has had LLU since 2000 and so far 40 to 50 exchanges have been unbundled. The feasibility is up to them [alternative providers], not Eircom. Right now automating LLU is a concept until we understand what it is. It requires physical work to be done.

“Ask Esat BT why it has 30,000 customers on bitstream. It’s on Eircom’s network – that’s the reality. The fact they chose bitstream over LLU is for them to explain. This reaction is extraordinary when Eircom this week doubled the bandwidth of the service, which will serve to benefit their customers. The upgrading of bitstream is not just benefiting Eircom but everyone currently on broadband,” McRedmond added.

By John Kennedy