Cable TV and broadband company UPC Ireland says it intends to compete head on with Eircom in the voice market and will today reveal a range of bundled digital voice and broadband services.
The new service means UPC Ireland is now a fully-fledged triple-play operator with voice, TV and broadband available to Irish homes.
The company’s new product will consist of voice and 1MB broadband for €24 a month. Consumers who opt for unlimited free evening and weekend calls would pay an additional €5 a month and consumers who want unlimited local and national calls at all times will pay an additional €10 a month.
Mark Coan, sales and marketing director of UPC Ireland, told siliconrepublic.com that users who want to increase their speeds to 2MB and 3MB would pay an additional €5 and €10 respectively on top of the base price.
Coan said that UPC parent Liberty Global’s investment in Ireland could eventually reach €1bn, including the acquisition of NTL and an additional €300m to €500m in capital expenditure.
“Our overall network in Ireland is accessible by 800,000 homes and out of these we would have 650,000 customers. Our ongoing investment will enable all those homes to be able access our broadband-capable network.”
Last month UPC revealed that it experienced a 121pc year-on-year broadband customer growth, with broadband subscribers jumping from 24,200 last year to 55,300 by the end of 2006.
Coan said that ongoing investment in DOCSIS 2.0 cable infrastructure could eventually make UPC’s network in Ireland capable of handling 20MB to 30MB broadband and that future investments in DOCSIS 3.0 cable infrasture may see the onset of 200MB broadband and beyond.
“We are investing heavily in our next-generation network and are putting fibre deeper into the network. This will ideally place us to deploy the next generation of services to the home. The build-out has begun and we are upgrading as fast as we can.”
Coan said the ability to offer digital voice telephony is an example of how platform competition is driving change. “At €24 the service is less than the price of Eircom’s monthly line rental alone and it includes broadband. Our broadband strategy has worked brilliantly so far and we think we can take it to the next stage with the rollout of this new service, which we hope will help to shake up the voice market in Ireland.”
Coan conceded the company is aiming to win customers away from Eircom in the locations UPC is active, including Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.
“We see a huge opportunity in this. At €24.18, Eircom’s monthly line rental is the highest in Europe. As an alternative platform provider we think we can offer some real choice for the market. Users could get rid of their existing Eircom phone line, just plug their phone into a slot on our broadband cable modems, stop paying line rental and get voice and broadband for €24 a month.”
While 1MB is the standard entry point for UPC’s current broadband packages, Coan said a significant proportion of broadband customers tend to opt for the higher 3MB and 6MB tiers. “We think that users of the voice services will inevitably move in this direction.
“The new networks we are rolling out are integrally more stable and able to support higher bandwidth. This means we can sign up more customers and have less contention ratios. We aim to differentiate ourselves in the market because we can offer the best in class broadband, not squeezing bandwidth over a copper line.”
Coan said that as a group Liberty Global has over 2.7 million digital voice customers worldwide and it was inevitable that voice services would be offered in Ireland.
In terms of future products to be introduced by UPC in Ireland, Coan said that at present the company is examining home wireless products and currently offers a free wireless router to 6MB customers.
“In the short-to-medium term we are looking at offering new digital video recorder (DVR) products that will effectively be a digital media hub for the home, including a cable modem, a voice port and a digital TV service all in one.
“In Dublin we are trialling a DVR product that has 160GB of storage, that equals 80 hours of recording.”
Of the new voice and broadband service, Coan said: “The new service will be available to over 92,000 Irish homes at launch and it will reach 375,000 homes by year-end. We’re confident that this latest move will bring us to the next level at a time when it looks like the LLU (local loop unbundling) market is in a state of paralysis.
“By offering this real choice in the market, additional customers will come over to UPC as our next-generation network right now becomes a reality,” Coan added.
By John Kennedy