More broadband blues as Irish access lags Europe

20 Oct 2005

Ireland has come in second-last place in a European league table that tracks broadband adoption. The news follows a report issued last week by the OECD in which Ireland also scored poorly for fast internet access.

A report by ECTA, a European association of alternative telecom service providers, has tracked broadband progress throughout the continent over the past 12 months. According to the latest findings, Ireland is at the bottom of the table in 14th position out of 15 EU countries measured for this survey.

The ECTA document also shows that Ireland’s position has remained static and it has been overtaken in the standings by some of the new EU member states such as Hungary, Slovenia and Lithuania. It also lags behind established countries Spain, Germany and Italy.

The report attributed the current low level of broadband adoption in Ireland to what it said was a failure of adequate processes for local-loop unbundling (LLU). This is the facility by which the incumbent telecoms operator allows competing providers into its exchanges to offer alternative choices for businesses and consumers.

ECTA concluded that the leading countries for broadband are those where competitors have been able to come in and build market share using competing technologies. In these countries there is competition in broadband from DSL and from cable networks as well as through the LLU process.

Tom Hickey, chairman of the Association of Alternative Telecoms Operators (ALTO) and ECTA representative in Ireland, commented: “This is a position that ALTO has been highlighting for some time. The ECTA report shows that Ireland has not been gaining ground for broadband penetration and also highlights the damaging effect of delays in proper LLU processes.”

Hickey claimed that Irish consumers were losing out due to a lack of competition in the market and he called on Eircom to put proper processes in place to give competitors access to its telecoms network.

“In France and the UK where action was taken on LLU and bitstream, they moved up three places in the broadband league table in 18 months. Italy also rose two places in the past two years as a result of its policy of building a path towards competition through bitstream and LLU,” Hickey said. “The countries at the top of the table are those with the highest LLU rates. Competition works, but competitors need to be able to access the copper loop in a reasonable manner to bring services to their customers.”

Last week’s report by the new science, technology and industry scoreboard from the OECD, showed Ireland in 19th place among broadband-enabled countries. It found that less than 10pc of Irish households have broadband.

By Gordon Smith