Ireland’s broadband performance lamentable


22 Jun 2005

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UPDATE: At the end of the first quarter of this year Ireland had hit some 152,300 broadband subscribers, a figure critics rage is far below the EU average and they warn that at this rate it will be at least a decade before the Government’s target can be reached.

According to the latest retrospective quarterly review from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) covering the period between January and March this year, as of 31 March Ireland had some 152,300 broadband subscribers, of which some 128,000 were DSL subscribers and the remainder accessing broadband services via satellite, fixed wireless and cable modem services.

This means broadband subscribers grew by only 18,000 from the 134,000 reported at the end of the final quarter of 2004.

ComReg’s quarterly analysis revealed also revealed Ireland has the highest monthly line rental among EU member states at €24. All remaining EU member states have monthly line rental less than €18.

The quarterly review also showed 75pc of DSL access in Ireland is provided by incumbent operator Eircom, with the remaining 24pc provided by other operators through wholesale bitstream services and 1pc through unbundled local-loop lines. At the end of March, there were some 1,800 local loops either fully unbundled or shared.

ComReg stated in the three months leading up to the end of March, narrowband internet subscribers increased 3pc, while broadband subscribers increased by 16pc, indicating while consumers are continuing to take up narrowband services, more are migrating to broadband, with DSL being the fastest-growing retail broadband platform.

“This is a damning report from ComReg, which shows once again Ireland is the most expensive country in the EU for line rental, and that we remain at the bottom of the table for broadband penetration,” said Association of Alternative Licenced Telecoms (ALTO) chairman Tom Hickey.

“Yet again it is consumers who are suffering from the lack of competition,” Hickey warned. “The latest report shows Ireland is the most expensive European country for line rental, approximately 60pc above the average. It also shows Ireland three places above average for the price of broadband. We will never increase the uptake of broadband while this situation is allowed to continue.

“According to today’s report Ireland has just 152,000 broadband subscribers or 3pc of population. With a growth rate of 16pc per quarter, Ireland has no real hope of achieving its target of 400,000 subscribers by the end of 2006,” Hickey warned.

Broadband lobby group IrelandOffline warned it should not be forgotten there are some 400,000 dial-up users in Ireland and only 152,000 broadband users, which contrasts with a situation in the US and the UK where there are more broadband users than dial-up users now.

IrelandOffline spokesman Damien Mulley warned not only is LLU a failure in Ireland, broadband take-up is slowing and Ireland is even further behind the European average. He said over a year ago, “Forfás stated Ireland should have had 450,000 subscribers as of November 2004.”

Mulley drew on a statement by former Communications Minister Dermot Ahern TD over a year and a half ago where he stated: “The goal is to be at or better than the EU average for end-user access to and usage of broadband by mid 2005.” Mulley said: “That means that June 2005 we should have 350,000 broadband subscribers, we are not even halfway there.”

Pointing to a target of 500,000 broadband subscribers by the end of 2006 set by Communications Minister Noel Dempsey TD in a challenge to the industry, Mulley said: “If we were only at 134,000 broadband subscribers by last December, we would need another 366,000 subscribers before we reach the 2006 target. At the present rate it would be 2012 before the target is reached.

“However, if broadband subscriptions stand at only 152,000 as of June 2005, it is a clear indication that broadband demand is slowing and it could be 2016 before Minister Dempsey’s target is reached,” Mulley warned.

In conversation with siliconrepublic.com, however, a spokesperson for Minister Dempsey said that the Minister said he was confident that his target of 400,000 broadband subscribers by 2006 could be met and that a target 500,000 by then should be the real target of the industry.

The spokesperson added that Dempsey wanted to remind the industry that it should be realised that there has been a 400pc increase in the take-up of broadband in the last 15 months.

By John Kennedy