Eircom rivals welcome ruling on FRIACO

8 Jan 2003

There’s been a delighted reaction from competitors and lobby groups to the decision by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to force Eircom to offer a wholesale flat-rate internet package to its rivals by the end of February this year.

This will allow internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunications firms to begin offering a retail product.

Currently nearly every home and business in the country uses Eircom’s network, meaning that competitors have to get wholesale access to its network to offer consumers a flat-rate product.

The directive, which goes even further than some of its advocates had hoped, follows an announcement made by Minister of Communications Dermot Ahern TD in recent months relating to the lack of availability of flat-rate internet access in Ireland and the need to introduce it as a priority to ensure Ireland’s development as an economy and as a society.

Speaking at the announcement, the regulator Etain Doyle said: “This will enable the provision of a retail offering by operators no later that June 2003.”

Doyle said that the Commission had intervened because of increased demands from consumers and because of a number of technical and commercial constraints.

Speaking to siliconrepublic.com, spokesperson for Esat BT, Una McGirr said: “It’s been a long hard road to get to this point, but we’re very pleased. We feel that the news really pushes the game forward substantially and we’re optimistic and looking forward to our discussions with Eircom to get to the point we need to be, price-wise.

Earlier, spokesman for lobby group IrelandOffline, David Long said that it would be a ‘hollow victory’ for them if the monthly flat rate for unlimited access was more than €35 per month: ” I see no value in this if it’s not less than this,” he said.
McGirr concurred, saying that the ideal bracket for the retail end consumer service would have to be €25-€35. “Otherwise consumers won’t buy it,” she said.

McGirr added that Esat BT would begin meetings with Eircom this week to agree processes and terms and conditions. She continued that it would be Esat BT’s understanding that ComReg would see how these discussions go but said that ultimately the regulator would set the prices.

Industry sources said that as a result of today’s ruling Eircom may have to cut its broadband pricing to deal with the introduction of flat-rate internet access (FRIACO): “It will be hard for Eircom to dodge this bullet. Short of taking legal action it will have to bend and do it,” said the source.

Until now, Ireland has lagged behind most of the rest of Europe on this issue with eight other countries including the UK, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all offering FRIACO.

By Suzanne Byrne