With only 5pc of the population having access to broadband, Ireland is below the EU average of 11pc on broadband access and is 20th in a list of 26 countries, a new EU report on telecommunications has revealed. The report also revealed that Ireland has the highest monthly residential line rental in Europe. This is also higher than Japanese and US levels.
Broadband take-up across Europe grew to nearly 53 million lines during 2005, a rise of almost 20 million during the year, driven by a raft of new providers on the market. On average, new entrants now have market share of almost 50pc, although many rely on incumbents’ networks to provide services. Despite this, there is a significant move to unbundled local loops with increased service quality and better product differentiation.
Factors contributing to the increase in broadband rollout — especially in countries such as France, the UK, Austria and Estonia — include a combination of competing infrastructure and effective regulation which has stimulated competition and resulted in relatively high broadband penetration.
The report stated that obstacles remain in Ireland in terms of competition in the fixed and broadband market. It said it was vigilant concerning possible limitations on powers given to the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) in Ireland, specifically in relation to limitations on powers of the regulator to enforce its decisions and limits on the level of fines ComReg can impose.
Among the figures unearthed in the EU Commission report was that Ireland’s residential line rental at €24.20 is the highest in Europe, also outstretching that of the US or Japan. The EU line rental average worked out at just under €15, while in the US consumers pay only €7.20 a month and in Japan consumers pay only €13.80 a month.
In terms of the average monthly expenditure of an Irish household — recorded in a composite basket of line rental plus mobile, national, international and local calls — Ireland came out at third-highest amongst EU, Japanese and US households. Irish consumers pay on average €45 a month on their fixed telephony bills, exceeded only by their Finnish (€48) and Japanese (€50) counterparts.
Business customers come off somewhat better, with Ireland coming in at 10th place amongst EU, US and Japanese companies’ composite basket for phone bills. Irish businesses pay on average €86 a month on their phone bills. Top of the list were Japanese firms paying €118 a month and UK firms paying €113 a month.
Damien Mulley, a spokesman for consumer lobby group IrelandOffline, commented: “No doubt ComReg and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources will highlight that we have cheap national calls but that is only one part of the composite basket. The basket is a much truer representation of a real phone bill. Overall we have distinctively high phone calls, no matter if some types of calls are cheaper.”
On the broadband issue Mulley said: “Ireland has been consistently one of the worst performing EU and OECD countries for the past five years for broadband penetration.”
By John Kennedy