Irish mobile users can now switch networks in a single day

1 Jul 2011

New EU telecoms rules – such as the ability for a consumer to change mobile network provider in a single day – have just been transposed into Irish law.

The Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, TD, today approved an extensive package of telecommunications regulations which turn EU rules into Irish law.

“This is a significant update to the Irish and European rules through which we manage our telecoms market,” Rabbitte said.

“They will strengthen competition, consumer and privacy rights and should boost the level of trust in using electronic communications.”

“For example, under one of the new rules, a consumer who wishes to change their mobile phone provider will be able to transfer his or her number within one working day.

“While Ireland fares very well compared to many of our EU counterparts when it comes to the speed at which a consumer can transfer his or her number from one provider to another, the certainty offered under the revised framework copper fastens the consumer’s protection against unnecessary disruption to their telephone service when changing service providers,” said the minister.

The new telecoms reforms

Under the new regulations, as well as a consumer being able to change mobile operator in just one day, telecoms operators must provide consumers with minimum quality of service levels.

A new internet freedom provision requires that access to or use of services via telecoms networks must respect fundamental human rights.

Internet service providers must adhere to minimum quality levels for citizens and the telecoms regulator ComReg will have powers to set these levels in order to promote ‘net neutrality’ and ‘net freedoms’ for citizens.

The new rules contain enhanced provisions around data privacy and citizens will now have to be informed in the event of data breaches.

A provision has been made to require undertakings to ensure that disabled users can access emergency services equivalent to that of other users.

The rules also provide additional powers to the regulator ComReg.

One of the most critical of these new powers is the ability to apply ‘functional separation’ as a last resort. This effectively means that if Eircom, as the incumbent operator, fails to provide other operators access to its network to provide broadband, ComReg will be empowered to order it to split away its wholesale division from its retail division.

“This provision is considered to be a provision of last resort where serious competition problems persist,” the Department of Communications said.

The new regulations also include provisions for better spectrum management. In terms of mobile networks of the future, fair allocation and management of wireless spectrum will be critical to Ireland’s future.

And finally, in terms of next-generation access and the deployment of next-generation networks that operators will have to build in co-operation, ComReg will have to take into account the investment made by each operator to allow them a reasonable rate of return on investment.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years