2002: Review of the year – Part II (April-June)


18 Dec 2002

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Looking back over 2002, LISA DEENEY selects the main movers and shakers in public and private sectors, the dotcoms and the dotbombs, and the big deals that made the headlines in a difficult year – April-June.

APRIL

The brave new world of 3G came to Ireland in April when O2 gave the first live demonstration of 3G services and applications at the ICT Expo Technology exhibition in the RDS.
Eircom resolved a stand-off between telecoms regulator Etain Doyle that cleared the way for its DSL (digital subscriber line) service that was originally scheduled to launch the previous October.
Done deals for April included Dublin-based technology firm Infocell Telecom, which signed a €3m contract with Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority to supply a real-time passenger information system to its bus service. Hewlett-Packard scored an IT goal and became the Football Association of Ireland’s technology supplier.

MAY

Esat was now officially rebranded Esat BT, but it was business as usual as it squared up to Eircom (again) over DSL and the cost of wholesale. Within days of revealing its DSL offering and rollout plans to the nation, Esat confirmed that it was in negotiations with various telecoms carriers about a wholesale offering. The move set the stage for a fresh confrontation with incumbent operator Eircom, which was hoping to take advantage of its dominant market position in the Irish marketplace to sell its competing i-Stream DSL service to carriers on a wholesale basis as well.
May also marked the go-ahead for the merger between IT giants Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, which together employ 4,000 people in Ireland. The two companies stressed that Ireland was not expected to be deeply affected. However, analysts said there was likely to be overlaps in jobs since the rationale given for the merger was to cut costs.
May’s acquisitions included Data Electronics, which bought troubled Inflow Ireland, a subsidiary of a global data centre chain, for a sum believed to be substantially less than the US$15.8m it cost Inflow to build the data centre. Data Electronics also acquired the assets of bankrupt firm Wolfe Group for €475,000, 75pc of what it cost the company’s operation, excluding the €1.5m Wolfe Group spent on its data centre.
And the bad news. Iona Technologies laid off 70 people as the mooted pick-up in IT spending continued to elude the sector.

JUNE

The month’s big story was that WorldCom had laid off 180 Irish employees as news of the parent company’s improper accounting of US$3.8bn in expenses shattered markets across the globe.
On the more positive side, firms that announced new funding included Eblana Photonics, a developer of high performance laser components; software company Cognotec raised €16m in new funds and SmartForce signed a €1m deal with Norwegian training provider Smartlearning to distribute its learning solutions in Scandinavia; LAN Communications linked up with Sarian Systems to offer clients a new range of telecom products. Unicorn Worldwide Holdings acquired Irish developer Nebula Technologies. Nebula had struggled to weather the prolonged downturn.

Pictured: Ben Verwaayen, CEO at British Telecom (left) and Bill Murphy launch the new Esat BT brand