BT will this week report it has smashed through the 10-million broadband barrier, ahead of its initial target of five million across the UK and Northern Ireland by the end of 2006.
BT’s five million target for the UK and Northern Ireland was set in April 2002 when there were fewer than 150,000 DSL connections. Broadband availability time in 2002 was 66pc; today it is 99.8pc.
The 10-million wholesale connections are shared between BT Wholesale and Openreach. BT Wholesale supplies services to more than 8.7 million customers via service providers as well as BT Retail while Openreach supplies 1.3 million lines via local loop unbundlers.
BT said that every single one of these 10 million connections brings revenues to BT.
In the Republic of Ireland, broadband availability is estimated to be at 85pc, local loop unbundling (LLU) is progressing slowly and Eircom has yet to embrace wholesale as a real strategy.
Reports published by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) showed that the Republic of Ireland has in total 436,000 broadband subscribers. OECD figures show that the country is still lagging behind international standards, ranking 24th out of 32 countries, up one place on its Q2 2005 position.
An LLU progress report published before Christmas by ComReg indicated that more than 50pc of broadband orders at various stages of processing, in any one month, are being rejected or result in “non-delivery of service”.
LLU is the process of an alternative provider connecting a consumer’s phone line to its equipment in a phone exchange, allowing consumers a greater choice of products. It is seen as a key driver of broadband growth in most EU countries and has brought down telecoms prices in all countries where LLU is seen as working.
Independent broadband providers are calling for the provision of LLU to be automated, compared with the present manual system. However, according to the ComReg report, Eircom estimates it will take a further 12 months to implement.
Under the present system, when an independent broadband provider takes an order, it sends the details over to Eircom and it is then inputted into Eircom’s system. The system as it stands cannot work for bulk orders as it depends on the number of people processing the data.
The ComReg report pointed out that under the current system more than 50pc of orders are being rejected or are not being delivered, delaying the consumer further from receiving broadband.
A briefing document on the subject from IrelandOffline points to the mobile phone industry where seamless movement from one service to another has allowed the mobile industry to thrive in Ireland, leading to 102pc penetration.
By John Kennedy