Home users still reluctant to go online

10 Sep 2003

The percentage of residential users online has remained static for the past three quarters, despite signs of growth in other areas of the internet services market, the latest quarterly report from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) reveals.

The report documents “a good uptake” of flat-rate internet access products (FRIACO) and a doubling of DSL broadband connections following reductions in price last May. There have been more than 6,500 subscriptions for FRIACO products and 3,850 additional subscriptions for DSL broadband connections between April and June.

Moreover, while the percentage of residential users going online has not grown, those that are online are using the internet more. For the first time, Irish people are spending more time online than they are talking on the phone when it comes to overall telephone usage – 40pc of all phone traffic is for internet usage compared to 39pc for telephone calls.

Other results include the fact that mobile penetration has edged up to 81pc, which equates to 3.17 million mobile subscribers. Operators, however, may worry that the text messaging craze may be finally levelling off. Growth in text messaging has stabilised with an estimated 716 million text messages sent during the quarter.

ComReg said that Ireland was one of five EU countries that completed on time the arrangements for the introduction of the new EU framework on 25 July. Full mobile number portability (FMNP) was launched on that date and so far 10,000 numbers have been ported. “FMNP is expected to grow as operators and consumers become more aware of the opportunities that this service can provide,” the report concludes.

Commenting on the Quarterly Report, ComReg chairperson Etain Doyle expressed dissatisfaction with the level of competition in the market for broadband provision, particularly with regard to small business.

“Ireland needs to vigorously enhance competition given its central importance within the communications sector, in particular, for the introduction and supply of broadband services,” she said. “There are some encouraging signs in relation to internet services in this quarterly review, but clearly we need to see more. Further measures are required that are tailored to the needs of the Irish market. If we wish to encourage more small businesses to use broadband services then such companies need to be sure that they will get the productivity gains and efficiencies that justify investing in such services.”

By Brian Skelly