ComReg to review Eircom unbundling charges

1 Apr 2003

ComReg is to review Eircom’s charges to alternative telecoms carriers for accessing and occupying its countrywide telecoms exchanges as part of local loop unbundling.

The review may see alternative telecom players access Eircom’s urban and rural exchanges at lower prices, which in turn will mean lower telecom costs for the public.

Under European Parliament rules, Eircom is obliged to publish an access reference offer (ARO) to telecoms companies wishing to provide broadband and voice services through Eircom’s urban and rural exchanges throughout the country.

Last year, bitter legal proceedings over the cost of Eircom’s local loop unbundling (LLU) between ComReg and Eircom were brought to a close when Eircom submitted new, reduced charges for the services. ComReg approved the new prices and set final rates for LLU covering January 2002 to 31 March 2003.

Eircom based its charges for LLU on the costs of running its network, otherwise known as long run incremental costs (LRIC). In a directive published yesterday, ComReg said that it will review the current prices taking into account Eircom’s current LRIC. The plan is to bring new LLU charges into being that reflect Eircom’s running costs and those of telcos wishing to access Eircom’s exchanges throughout the country.

Last year, the total cost of running Eircom’s €723.3m nationwide network ran to €667.4m, leaving the national carrier with a return of €55.8m.

In its directive published yesterday, ComReg said that it will maintain the existing charges until 31 May, when it will introduce new charges that it deems acceptable.

According to Eircom’s current ARO, the carrier charges other carriers anything between €130 and €560 per square metre in rental for occupying space in its exchanges. The prices differ for different towns and rural areas. The highest rate at €560 goes to Beggars Bush exchange in Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4, whilst the lowest, at €130, goes to Piper Hill in Ballina.

On top of this, alternative carriers have to make a capital contribution of between €3,017 and €6,379 towards the power configuration of each exchange they unbundle, depending on the size (small, medium or large) or location (urban or rural) of each exchange.

As well as this there are other fees for cabling, fibre and power licence fees for each exchange. For alternative telcos’ technicians to access each site after-hours on a planned basis, the first 30 minutes would cost €100 with a further €20 added every subsequent 15 minutes. If a telco had to access the unbundled exchange after-hours on an unplanned basis, for example in the case of an emergency, they would be charged €217 for the first half hour and a further €33 every 15 minutes thereafter.

A spokesperson for ComReg told “ComReg does not yet know if the new prices will be higher or lower than the existing prices. We would not want to prejudge the Eircom pricing submission. When we review the prices in May we will then make a comment on what it will mean to the market.”

By John Kennedy