Flat-rate surfing finally arrives on these shores

11 Jun 2003

Flat-rate internet access services are expected to be made available in Ireland from tomorrow (27 June). It is anticipated that users will be able to avail of unlimited dial-up internet access for prices of around €30 per month.

The telecoms regulator ComReg has directed the introduction of flat-rate services and has designated 27 June as the date for Eircom to provide other operators with wholesale rates. “In principle, retail products should be available on that date,” a public affairs spokesperson for ComReg confirmed. Several of the State’s ISPs are due to make announcements and are readying flat-rate offerings.

Interestingly, Eircom may not be first off the blocks with a retail flat-rate service. Although it will be complying with the date to announce the wholesale side of the service, spokesperson for the former state telephone company told siliconrepublic.com that it may not launch its own service to consumers on 27 June. When Eircom’s service goes live, it is likely to be a selection of usage-based packages for the consumer and business market. No exact pricing details are available, but it is thought there may be services for light and heavy users, as well as separate tariffs for day and night internet access.

Esat BT is to brand its offering ‘IOL Anytime’ and will offer subtly different products for the residential and business markets. Esat BT expects takeup to be primarily among consumers but wants to offer flat-rate services to small businesses and home office users that don’t need always-on or high-speed services.

siliconrepublic.com understands that IOL Anytime will be priced at close to €33 per month (incl. Vat), which breaks down as just over €1 per day. The service will have an upper usage limit, expected to be between 180 and 200 hours per month. Esat BT believes this figure will be sufficient for most users’ needs and it is based on what has been typically used in other countries where flat rate services have been introduced.

It is believed that UTV Internet may announce details of its offering ahead of the 27 June launch date, however a spokesman for the company refused to confirm this. No operator is allowed to make flat-rate services available before that date, but they will be allowed to reveal pricing information and could even begin taking customer orders.

Based on a likely pricing structure of €30 per month, internet users can expect to make substantial savings, especially those who go online between the hours of 8am and 6pm. By comparison, Eircom Net’s free service costs 5.07c per minute during the day and 1.26c at the weekend. Anyone switching to flat-rate services would be able to stay connected to the net for considerably longer.

By Gordon Smith