IBEC body backs case for Eircom’s return to mobile

1 Nov 2004

IBEC body the Telecommunications Users Group has called for the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to ease the way for Eircom’s potential return to the Irish mobile communications marketplace, following comments by Eircom chairman Sir Anthony O’Reilly at Eircom’s recent AGM that appeared to affirm that such plans are afoot.

“Whether Eircom intends to buy an existing operator, build a new one or strike a deal to purchase minutes from existing operators, we would feel strongly that ComReg has A role to play if and when it or any new player enters the market,” said Paul McSweeney, chairman of IBEC’s Telecommunications Users Group (TUG).

TUG said it welcomed the prospect of Eircom’s return to the market following comments in recent weeks by Sir Anthony O’Reilly at Eircom’s recent AGM. Contrasting Eircom’s 44pc share of Ireland’s fixed-line telecoms market with the 94pc shared between O2 and Vodafone in the mobile market, O’Reilly said: “The cost of telecoms has fallen dramatically due to Eircom’s price reductions, but Eircom can continue to add value and is hugely frustrated that it continues to be prevented from applying Eircom’s lower prices in mobile telephony.

“Eircom must get back into mobile and we are building the commercial case for re-entry,” O’Reilly told Eircom shareholders.

He also expressed his “hopes to get back into mobile, requiring the assistance of the consumer, the regulator and the Government in achieving this end if we are going to get a real reduction in the cost of mobile calls.”

TUG said that there is need for greater competition in the Irish mobile market and that it would support any move that would give business users more options when choosing a service provider.

It pointed out that O2 and Vodafone control 94pc of the market, “but with the advent of 3G and other new technologies, the entry of 3 Ireland to the market and the recent roaming agreement between Meteor and O2 are all positive signs for increased competition.”

McSweeney said he is calling on ComReg to play a role in future changes to the mobile market in the same way that it helped open the Irish fixed-line market and, in particular, allowing smaller operators to help speed up the roll-out of broadband technologies in Ireland.

“Any competition is good competition,” said McSweeney. “If Eircom or any other operator plans to re-enter the mobile market and give the two dominant operators a serious run for their money then this can only be a positive development for Irish business users.”

By John Kennedy