Telcos seek Oireachtas meeting over next-generation broadband

22 Feb 2013

Licensed telecoms body ALTO is seeking an Oireachtas hearing over the introduction of Next Generation Access (NGA) for broadband by Eircom, claiming its members were given insufficient regulatory notice for the launch of NGA services in April.

In early April, incumbent operator Eircom will open the first of its NGA-enabled exchanges to telecoms operators on a wholesale basis. This will enable other operators to resell VDSL-based broadband enabled by fibre-to-the-cabinet, promising Irish residential subscribers speeds of between 50Mbps and 70Mbps.

However, according to an ALTO spokesman, telecoms regulator ComReg told ALTO and the European Commission that the industry would have been given pricing notice six months in advance of the launch of NGA services by Eircom.

The organisation is bringing its protests to the European Commission and is seeking an audience with an Oireachtas Committee.

According to ALTO, in November, ComReg notified the European Commission that six months at least would be required to notify the industry on pricing for NGA services.

In December, the European Commission replied and specifically noted the six-month warning would be required, as well as the completion of a Market 1 consultation, completion of competitiveness studies of all 126 Larger Exchange Areas and to set out the different competitive constraints in the exchange areas.

According to a spokesman for ALTO, its members were assured at a meeting at ComReg on 18 December that six months’ notice on pricing would be given six months before the launch of NGA services.

“On 31 January, ComReg published its Decision Instruments and did not implement what they said on the six-month timeline on pricing information,” the ALTO spokesman explained.

“In fact, there is no mention of ‘initial launch’ in the decision instruments with respect to pricing notifications periods at all and what mention there is only requires two months of a notification period.

On 6 February, Eircom announced new pricing information for NGA which will launch in early April. According to ALTO, had the notification period of six months that its members and the European Commission had been assured would happen, the new NGA services would launch at earliest in early August.

“ALTO notes with interest the materiality of the difference between what ComReg actually implemented to what was notified to the European Commission, and that is a matter of grave concern in all the circumstances.

“ALTO suggests that it is reasonable to assume that if the two-month notification period had been flagged to the Commission during the Article 7 process, that the European Commission would have taken the opportunity to express concern (or more) about it, given that it runs entirely contrary to the Commission’s own NGA Recommendation which is cognisant of the need for regulatory predictability and adequate timeframes being provided for in which to devise business plans with confidence.”

The spokesman said ALTO is seeking written clarification from ComReg.

“We would appreciate an early response from ComReg, as it is our intention to provide this information to our members, all of whom are querying why the differences in what is being communicated, expected and then finally decided upon,” he said.

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