Ireland’s already shaky claim to the title European digital hub was looking even more risible than usual today, following the latest internet penetration survey, which shows us to be languishing in second last place out of 16 European countries in terms of broadband internet penetration.
Ireland only managed to dodge the bottom spot because of a singularly unimpressive 0.0pc showing from the Greek entry.
In the survey, carried out by Strategy Analytics, Ireland is shown to have a very poor 1.3pc penetration level – 4.8pc less than the western European average.
This is just the latest in a long list of surveys which show Ireland performing very poorly on the European stage in terms of broadband penetration.
Top of the list was Belgium at 20.2pc (telecommunications companies) followed by Denmark at 18.2pc and the Netherlands at 13.7pc. The UK was in 12th place at a 6.1pc penetration level.
Although not singling out any of the underperformers for particular mention, Nick Griffiths, director of global broadband practice said: “Our analysis shows that broadband has been most successful in countries such as Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands, where there is strong competition between cable and telco operators.
He added: “Governments and regulators must adopt policies to encourage multiple operators and service providers.”
Speaking to siliconrepublic.com David Long chairman of broadband lobby group IrelandOffLine said: “Currently people just aren’t in a position to incur the costs for a home connection. Only when we see a reasonably priced cost will we see the figures improve.”
“Once we have the services – and not just the e-government services but things like home-shopping etc available to consumers and which consumers are willing to partake of online – presently they would have to incur a prohibitively high cost, the situation will remain the same.”
Referring to the recent decision by the Commission for Communications Regulations (ComReg) to force Eircom to provide wholesale broadband to competitors, Long expressed concern that the price of the service, which is currently under discussion, be in line with prices in the rest of Europe
He also said that reports today that the world’s most successful search engine Google.com is considering creating 100 jobs here could throw up the issue of poor connectivity yet again.
Long continued that lack of education or awareness of what was available to consumers and the benefits of broadband, also adversely affect take up of the service: “Telcos are arguing for the demand side, saying it’s not about supply. Esat for example are saying their lower cost ADSL hasn’t had the hoped-for up-take, claiming people’s awareness about what they can do is not good.”
Among the survey’s other findings were that 7.5pc (12 million) of all European households now subscribed to a broadband internet service. 6.3 million customers signed up for broadband for the first time in 2002 – an increase of 55pc over 2001.
The survey also found that a growing number of customers chose DSL providers in preference to cable. ADSL increased its share of new customer acquisitions from 72.3pc in 2001 to 76.1pc in 2002, while cable’s share fell from 26pc to 22.6pc
It further predicted that a further 7.2 million European homes will acquire broadband for the first time this year, bringing the total to 19.1 million or 11.9pc of total households.
In contrast to last year, however, cable operators are expected to increase their share of net new subscribers to 25pc while ADSL’s share will fall to 71pc. Cable’s improved performance it says will be dependent on successful financial restructuring and increased investor confidence.
Longer term it’s predicted that 38pc of European homes will have broadband internet service by 2008.
By Suzanne Byrne