The introduction of flat rate internet access (FRIACO) has resulted in adoption rising from 6,500 in the last quarter to 30,000 in the present quarter, with orders currently running at more than 1,500 per week, according to the latest quarterly report from the Commission for Communications Regulation.
During the same period, DSL broadband connections increased from 7,350 to 13,350 in the quarter to the end of September. The number of broadband connections is now running at more than 1,000 orders per week.
According to ComReg’s quarterly report, almost two thirds of small businesses believe that there are savings to be gained by changing their telecoms supplier.
The survey of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), conducted by TNS MRBI, shows that nine out of 10 such firms are connected to the internet, an increase of 6pc on last year.
The percentage of SMEs using DSL lines has trebled since last year, from a base of 3pc to 10pc.
Included in the quarterly report was an internet survey by Amarach Consulting, which showed that internet penetration is now at 44pc of households with a fixed line, up 5pc since the last quarter. In addition, PC ownership has also increased with 49pc of all households now with a PC, up 4pc on the last quarter.
The ComReg report said that the telecoms sector accounts for approximately 3.4pc of GNP and has an estimated annual turnover of €3.65bn. Total revenues for fixed, mobile and broadcasting are up 3pc since the last quarter.
The mobile sector’s penetration grew 2pc to reach 83pc of Ireland’s population. Meteor’s share of the mobile market increased from 4pc to 5pc during the quarter.
Text messaging continues to grow with each Irish mobile subscriber sending on average 78 text messages each month – up from 65 last year.
Consumers have also taken advantage of the opportunity provided by mobile number portability. More than 40,000 people have changed their mobile operator since the introduction of this service last July.
The report also indicated that 29pc of households with a television now have digital services. The take-up of digital TV stands at 47pc of all pay-TV subscribers, up 3pc on the last quarter.
“Despite difficult trading conductions the communications sector has achieved a modest level of growth over the last quarter,” commented John Doherty, the new chairperson of ComReg.
“It’s imperative that the level of competition within the communications sector increases as we enter the New Year. Ireland’s economy needs a diverse and competitive electronic communications sector to underpin our growth and to allow the industry and consumers alike the choices, prices and quality they need.
“There are encouraging signs in this quarterly report. The number of small businesses using DSL lines has trebled as more firms see the benefits of upgrading their phone and communication lines. ComReg would like to see a continued increase in DSL take-up throughout 2004.
“Within the mobile phone sector, the level of mobile number portability shows that there is potential for greater competition within this key sector,” Doherty concluded.
By John Kennedy