Etain Doyle to step down as telecoms regulator

30 Oct 2003

UPDATE: The chairperson of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) Etain Doyle has revealed today that she is planning to step down from the position early next year.

Since taking up the position at the then Office for Telecommunications Regulation (ODTR), Doyle has never been far from controversy, battling to steer through deregulation of the telecoms market and enforce effective competition in the sector as well as helping to make DSL, broadband and 3G a reality.

Doyle told the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Dermot Ahern TD that she did not want to be reconsidered for reappointment to the €157,000-a-year role when her current term of office ends on 30 November. A career civil servant, Doyle said that she plans to take up a film-making course in New York upon her departure from ComReg.

When the ODTR was replaced with ComReg last December, Doyle was appointed head of a three-person commission and her tenure as chair was to end in December on the basis of a 12-month rotation with the other two commissioners. It is expected that one of the other two commissioners, Isolde Goggin and John Doherty, will replace Doyle when she retires.

However, it is understood that Doyle’s relationship with Ahern’s department in recent months was fraught with difficult negotiations over her contract, pension entitlements and job benefits. Doyle had sought a company car, a performance-related bonus and an early retirement package that would allow her to start drawing down her pension at 52.

After joining the civil service in 1973, Doyle held positions with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Foreign Affairs, followed by periods with the University College Dublin’s School of Business and aid organisation TACIS.

With the advent of deregulation in 1997, Doyle helped pave the way for opening up the Irish telecommunications market to competition and often had to battle with a recalcitrant Eircom to assuage the demands of alternative licensed telcos to bring in wholesale DSL, rule on mobile phone roaming prices and license the forthcoming 3G mobile phone market. Eircom recently took legal proceedings against ComReg over a directive on the proposed price to be charged to alterative operators for wholesale access to its network.

Doyle said: “The decision to step down from ComReg comes as we reach a natural break for the organisation. The new EU framework is in place, 3G has been launched with just one operator to start shortly and mobile phone number portability is working effectively.

“In addition, spectrum management and innovation is well-established in Ireland, the new fixed wireless access local area licensees are about to be announced, which will enable small operators to compete more effectively for broadband customers. This will add some extra market pressure to the regulatory regime for DSL lines. The key postal regulation issues have been set out and a new regime comes into effect shortly and the transition from ODTR to ComReg is complete.

“It has been a tremendous privilege to work in both the ODTR and ComReg since 1997. I want to thank everyone at ComReg and also the industry players and those in government departments and other agencies who have contributed constructively over the years,” Doyle said, thanking the Minister Ahern and Senator Mary O’Rourke for their support.

As well as the film-making course in New York, Doyle said that she will be planning some professional projects for the longer term.

Commenting on the news, the minister paid tribute to Doyle, saying that she had made a significant contribution to the liberalised communications sector. “Doyle was one of the first regulators to be appointed, overseeing the communications market which plays such a pivotal role in the economy,” he said. “She has made a unique contribution in a sector which is dominated by large multinationals. She has an enormous capacity for work and a mind which could focus on detail but never lost sight of the big picture.”

By John Kennedy