The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) says it wants clarity on next generation network (NGN) rollout in Ireland and revealed it is anxious that local loop unbundling (LLU) rollout by Eircom must continue unhindered.
ComReg chairperson Mike Byrne said: “While we look forward to the introduction of NGNs in Ireland, we recognise that there are some initial questions and challenges that must first be addressed.”
Earlier this year Eircom revealed it is planning to invest €60m in a plan to upgrade its central communications system to be able to deploy internet TV and achieve a minimum standard of 8Mbps within two years.
However, at the time the move raised fears amongst operators that the incumbent may prioritise investment in the Dublin region in order to compete with future network services provided by NTL Ireland’s new owner UPC.
At the time the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators (ALTO) warned that millions invested by other telecom companies in local loop unbundling (LLU) could be rendered obsolete.
The move was met by calls from operators such as Magnet and BT that LLU continue in the rest of the country before NGN rollout commenced. BT Ireland chief operating officer Mike Maloney estimated that it could cost €200m to €300m to fix the copper network and that it was vital this was done before investment begins in the NGN.
In a paper published yesterday, the national communications regulator said that key among the challenges that ComReg wishes to address is the need for clarity around the continuation of existing obligations.
“ComReg recognises that the transition to NGNs may cause uncertainty for those operators who currently utilise LLU or who are considering doing so.
“ComReg does not want to see the adoption of LLU being hindered. The experience in other European countries clearly demonstrates the LLU is a key driver of competition and broadband deployment.
“To this end, ComReg believes that LLU will remain an important enabler of competition, particularly given Eircom’s commitment to retain its copper infrastructure for the foreseeable future.
ComReg expressed its intention for Eircom to retain the unbundled access obligation on a national basis, “where significant market power continues to be found, for the duration of the next market review.
“ComReg expects that any proposed withdrawal of network infrastructure that is essential to the fulfilment of those obligations would be preceded by an adequate notification period of between three to five years.”
By John Kennedy