UPDATE: Ireland remains the most expensive EU member state when it comes to residential monthly line-rental charges.
Bills for Irish consumers clock up at €9 more expensive than the average line rental among 19 states, new figures from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) show.
In its latest quarterly report, ComReg attributed this as being “largely due to Eircom’s higher costs associated with developing and maintaining a national telecoms network in Ireland, with its significantly higher rural-based population”.
The report found that the value of total electronic communications market in Ireland was €1.1bn during the first three months of this year.
On an annual basis, operator revenues in the Irish market account for €4.5bn. European Commission estimates put the total electronic communications market for the EU at €273bn for the 12 months to December 2005. This would suggest that Ireland represents around 1.5pc of the overall electronic communications market in the EU.
Fixed-line revenues now account for 46.3pc of the Irish quarterly total, with mobile services increasing their share of revenue to 49.7pc. Broadcasting sector revenue represented 3.9pc in the first quarter, ComReg found.
Total voice traffic over both fixed and mobile networks totaled almost 3.8 billion minutes in the first three months of the year; this is a 4pc increase in voice traffic since last quarter and a 9pc increase in voice traffic since the same period a year ago. ComReg noted that although there was no movement in the mobile-to-mobile and fixed-line to fixed-line call volume elements during Q1, the overall trend since the first quarter of 2004 has been that mobile-to-mobile call volumes have increased while fixed-line to fixed-line call volumes in contrast have been gradually declining.
Traffic between fixed to mobile voice networks as a proportion of all traffic has remained at around 11pc of traffic while the volume of minutes from mobile phones to fixed lines has decreased slightly over the period.
Irish mobile subscribers talked for over 1.5 billion minutes in the first three months of the year and sent more than 1.25 billion text messages during the same period. Some 7.8 million multimedia messages were sent between January and March.
ComReg produced figures in its report which claim to show that in terms of fixed-line telecoms prices for residential customers, Ireland is now in third position and is nine places better than the EU average.
However, the telecoms lobby group IrelandOffline pointed to EU statistics which purport to show that true telecoms costs in Ireland are more expensive as ComReg figures take account only of national calls and do not include local calls, calls to mobiles or line rental. According to the EU figures, the average monthly spend for residential users on fixed-line telecoms is €45, the second highest in the EU, less expensive only than Finland.
The number of broadband subscribers at the end of March 2006 stood at over 322,000 people, accounting for 35pc of all internet subscriptions in the market. One year ago, that figure was 19pc of the total.
By Gordon Smith