LLU direction to Eircom welcomed by industry

19 Jan 2005

UPDATE – The Commission for Communications Regulation’s (ComReg) direction last night giving Eircom until 15 February to open up various aspects of its network as part of its universal service obligation that have been allegedly withheld from other operators – ranging from full-carrier pre-selection, wholesale line rental, geographic number portability and bitstream – has been welcomed by the industry.

ComReg issued a direction to Eircom urging it to respond to access seekers’ (including licensed telcos such as Esat BT, Smart Telecom and Leap Broadband) requests and to provide a number of deliverables by 15 February, with an intervening meeting to present on progress.

ComReg said that as well as local-loop unbundling (LLU) Eircom was obliged as a “significant market power” to make other wholesale products such as number portability, carrier pre-select and bitstream need to be made available to other authorised operators.

The regulator pointed out that access seekers taking the wholesale LLU products from Eircom are investing substantially in LLU and are seeking to develop more comprehensive retail offerings. Leap Broadband last week revealed it was investing €10m in SDSL services as part of its LLU rollout.

ComReg states: “These requirements have been discussed at industry level as well as between ComReg and Eircom. However, disagreement has arisen as to how efficiently progress matters. As a consequence ComReg is issuing two directions to Eircom. These directions will require Eircom to respond to access seekers’ requests and to provide a number of deliverables to them by 15 February 2005, with an intervening meeting to present on progress.”

Iarla Flynn of telecoms industry body the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators told siliconrepublic.com that services such as the ability of a telco to seamlessly migrate a new customer to broadband, number portability and carrier pre-select in a single step as well as potentially moving 1,000 customers to pre-select in a single move have been too slow to come on stream.

Flynn said: “Important features such as being able to offer a customer broadband and link this in with number portability as well as working with bulk orders such as activating 1,000 new customers are not available to operators. There has been a lot of exchanges to and fro but Eircom has been dragging its feet. ComReg is effectively telling Eircom to respond to these requests within a certain timeframe and present on this progress and simply to stop messing around.

“Eircom have been looking for a huge amount of time to do a simple job. The industry views this as a standard delaying tactic. ComReg is spot on in taking this action,” Flynn said.

He continued: “Players such as Esat BT, Smart and Leap are investing money in future services that the market requires and are committed to delivering. Eircom is obviously threatened and if someone comes along with an unbundling service that works as well as a full range of new products Eircom views this as a potential threat and that’s why we believe it has been dragging its feet.

“The simple truth is that Ireland is way behind on broadband uptake and that wouldn’t be the case if we had better LLU in the market,” Flynn concluded.

Flynn’s views were echoed by lobby group IrelandOffline. Aidan Whyte from IrelandOffline said: “LLU has been an unmitigated disaster in Ireland since it’s launch in 2001 with less than 2,000 out of more than 1.7 million lines unbundled in the intervening four years. This has been due to Eircom implementing a policy of blocking LLU development at every stage with excessive pricing and a hostile bureaucracy, along with extremely poor regulation by the ODTR and its successor ComReg.”

Whyte referred to an EU report on telecommunications that recently expressed concern about the LLU process in Ireland while a Forfas report in November classed it as a failure.

Whyte added: “Over the past six months ComReg has been conducting a review of LLU in Ireland which has resulted in some pricing being brought back into line with European norms. It has become apparent that Eircom have been attempting to bully the regulator over the past few weeks on the issue of LLU and it is good news that ComReg are not putting up with it.”

By John Kennedy