UPDATE: Cable TV firm NTL has this morning pledged to invest €100m to broadband enable its network in Dublin, Galway and Waterford, with the aim of having 100,000 homes capable of using its broadband service by the end of this year. The company also became the cheapest broadband service provider in Ireland, with one of its packages costing €25 a month.
The company said this morning that it aims to complete its broadband service rollout by the end of 2006. NTL Ireland’s chief executive Graham Sutherland said that the investment confirms NTL’s long term commitment to the Irish market and sets the company up as a local loop competitor to incumbent operator Eircom, which early this week said it has 50,000 DSL customers signed up.
Sutherland added that the investment will provide Irish consumers with a world-class network for the delivery of broadband and advanced digital TV services “and will enable consumers to enjoy the benefits of true platform competition.”
He said: “We share the Government’s vision of making broadband services more widely available at competitive prices in order to place Ireland in the top tier of OECD countries for broadband access.”
The first range of packages available will include a 300Kbps service over the cable network that would cost subscribers €25 per month. The second package available includes 750Kbps for €35 per month and the final offering includes a 1.5Mbps service for €50 per month. It is understood that subscribers also get will also get free installation and free first three months subscription.
NTL is already one of the biggest broadband service providers in the UK, where it has over 1m broadband customers and has some 11m homes located within reach of its fibre optic network in most key cities there.
A spokesperson for NTL Ireland told siliconrepublic.com that the investment in Ireland will primarily cover the company’s existing network reach in Dublin, Galway and Waterford.
In an interview with siliconrepublic.com this morning, Sutherland said that the company will be offering its broadband services primarily as a consumer play but said that as the network is rolled out NTL will examine the prospect of offering broadband services to businesses. “As you expand the network it creates new opportunities all the time,” he said.
Sutherland added that the network rollout will commence in July and the company hopes to ensure broadband-enable homes at a rate of 10,000 homes per month. “We are already well down the road in terms of the fact that we have trialled 12,000 homes in Lucan last year and of these, some 4,000 have signed up for the service,” he said.
“We are very excited about this and we have worked hard to create opportunities for people to experience broadband and through platform competition we aim to be a serious rival to Eircom.”
Sutherland added that initially the broadband package will be sold separately from the company’s TV services “but as the market develops we will look at bundling TV and broadband packages.”
NTL’s Irish operations saw its profit margin for the year ended 31 December 2003 increase to 35pc from 25pc a year ago. Revenues for 2003 increased 21pc to £72.5m sterling, from £59m sterling a year ago. Profits jumped 71.6pc to £25.4m sterling from £14.8m sterling a year earlier. NTL Ireland ended 2003 with 344,300 residential customers. Digital television customers grew by 11,700 to 71,300 homes, including MMDS users.
By John Kennedy