Players called back to the table on LLU

31 May 2006

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has called on telecom players to return to the negotiating table today, just over a full month since BT, Smart and Magnet walked away from local loop unbundling (LLU) negotiations with Eircom.

Negotiations between Irish telecoms operators have been taking place since December 2004 and have centred on implementing automated processes for rival operators to offer broadband services using LLU over Eircom’s network.

This process would allow operators to install their own equipment in Eircom exchanges, allowing them to offer a wider range of services, such as broadband, to businesses and consumers instead of just reselling services that Eircom currently provides. A month ago BT revealed that it was walking away from talks with Eircom. Smart and Magnet also walked away.

According to a statement from ComReg last night the other operators considered Eircom’s proposals had fallen below their requirements. ComReg said it had been meeting with the parties over the past couple of weeks to develop a programme to address the key issues.

After today’s meeting ComReg envisages that by 19 June Eircom will permit operators to decide the method by which broadband is delivered when customers are taking calls and line rental from other operators.

On 31 July it is envisaged that ComReg will identify the next steps around enabling customers to switch products and services seamlessly.

On 8 August ComReg says it believes an interim product will be available that will allow customers to keep their existing phone number when changing broadband supplier. On the same day ComReg envisages the industry will commence development of a long-term solution to permit customers to keep their existing phone number when changing broadband supplier.

ComReg commissioner John Doherty commented: “While Ireland’s adoption of broadband is gaining momentum rapidly, LLU remains a key catalyst for broadband supply and demand.”

At present there are 330,000 broadband subscribers in Ireland, with take-up increasing 114pc in the past 12 months. Some 70pc of broadband subscribers in Ireland are based on DSL. However, ComReg has been highlighting the availability of alternative platforms such as wireless and cable. At present 30pc of broadband subscribers in Ireland use platforms other than DSL.

LLU is considered a key catalyst in growing broadband and has been instrumental in high take-up of broadband in Sweden, the UK, France, Norway and Finland.

“ComReg now expects all operators to work together on this important programme. While I welcome the progress that has been made over the past four weeks, ComReg intends to monitor progress on all the agreed areas in the coming weeks and is prepared to intervene robustly if necessary.”

By John Kennedy