Eircom to launch self-install DSL

26 Mar 2003

Eircom is preparing to launch a new self-install ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) service that could result in significantly cheaper ADSL connections for consumers and businesses. Rival carrier Esat BT is expected to follow suit.

Eircom is due to launch its consumer DSL offering on 11 April at a monthly levy of €45 plus Vat. A spokesperson for the company said the service will be available in two versions – Eircom install and self-install. While unwilling to disclose the pricing of the self-install product, the spokesperson said it would be “considerably cheaper” than the Eircom install alternative. Esat BT was unavailable for comment on its likely response.

At present, all new ADSL customers that sign up for Eircom’s ADSL product, i-stream, have to pay a connection fee of €165 plus Vat in addition to a monthly service charge. An Eircom engineer calls to the customer’s home/office and installs a device called a DSL splitter, which divides the incoming line into a telephone connection and an ADSL connection. In addition, an engineer in an ADSL-enabled telephone exchange connects the customer to the DSL equipment there known as a DSLam.

With the self-install service, a DSL splitter is no longer necessary. Instead, new customers are provided with microfilter sockets – devices the size of a matchbox – which they themselves fit to all extension sockets connected to the ADSL service. Eircom is expected to ship DSL modems with three such microfilters.

As the service engineer is no longer required to make customer visits, Eircom should make major savings in call-out costs. Although each customer still needs to be connected at the exchange as well, this process is much more cost efficient as several hundred customers can be connected to a single exchange. If Eircom passes on these full savings to its customers, the connection fee paid by new DSL customers could be a fraction of their current level and so make the technology affordable to a larger proportion of the market.

In recent months, both Eircom and Esat BT have announced consumer DSL services which will bring down the cost of DSL to €45 and €48.50 per month plus Vat, respectively. However, the launch of the services has been delayed by the protracted negotiations between Eircom and the telecoms regulator, ComReg, over what Eircom can charge for providing wholesale access to its infrastructure to other operators. Under an agreement finally announced last week, Eircom is to allow other telecom firms to provide DSL services using its infrastructure for a wholesale fee of €27 per month per customer.

Self-install DSL has been available in other DSL markets for some time. In the UK, for example, BT launched a self-install service last summer called Wires Only ADSL, which is credited with helping to drive the surge in demand for DSL lines.

Iarla Flynn, chairman of ALTO (Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators), said such services are helpful for driving mass-market DSL.

“Where mass-market take-up of DSL services is looking likely I think companies are more likely to go for simple-install services to drive widespread take-up. The high connection charges definitely act an a disincentive, especially for small businesses or residential customers.”

By Brian Skelly