Via Net.Works launches DSL service

16 Dec 2002

Via, an independent internet service provider (ISP) and the first wholesaler of Eircom’s bitstream digital subscriber line (DSL) product, has launched the first phase of its DSL broadband offering.

Customers will pay €165 for a one-off installation fee plus a monthly subscription of €169 for the service which is broadly positioned to compete with the i-Stream Enhanced product provided by Eircom. The service will offer bandwidth speeds of 1Mbps download and 256Kbps upload.

In addition, in early 2003, the company plans to launch email and hosting services along with DSL as a bundled offering designed to compete aggressively with Eircom’s internet access and hosting services.

Dublin will be the target market for the service for the first 12 to 18 months but, according to company, as Eircom rolls out DSL across the country the service will be available on the back of Eircom’s infrastructure. As a wholesale user of Eircom’s service, Via does not have its own equipment in the Eircom exchange but will install the necessary hardware in clients’ premises, including a traffic splitter and other hardware such as DSL modems, routers and firewalls.

Via plans to target small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and expects to have between 750 and 1,000 customers using the service by the end of the first quarter 2003.

Louise McKeown, marketing director at Via, told the company had made what she described as a “significant” investment in the service and expected to become highly visible in the market in early 2003.

“Business customers are confused by Eircom’s positioning of DSL and ISDN, which is a result of Eircom wanting to protect its higher margins on ISDN connections,” she said.

“This is one of the reasons why DSL take-up has been so slow at a time when businesses are crying out for affordable broadband access.”

She cited the recent quarterly figures from the Commission for Communications Regulations (ComReg) indicating that there are still only 1,900 DSL customers in Ireland even though the same report suggests that 25pc of SMEs plan to upgrade from ISDN to DSL.

She added: “With Esat BT only present in a very small number of exchanges [in Dublin], we are the first ISP to offer an alternative. We already have 36 exchanges enabled but if a customer anywhere in Dublin wants a reliable keenly priced DSL service we will be able to provide it.”

Businesses will be connected within 10 working days of signing up for the service and the sign-up process is very simple, with a single form to be filled in, according to the company.

Via has a 45Mbps dedicated connection into Eircom’s network and plans to further upgrade that bandwidth early next year. Technical support is provided from the Via support centre in central Dublin.

The company said it is also planning to launch a consumer DSL package by the end of January 2003.

Via is entering a market that, after a slow start, is showing signs of coming to life. Eircom has 57 DSL-enabled exchanges around the country and 500,000 customer lines enabled for DSL, a number it expects to rise to one million by the end of 2003. Esat BT, which claims about 500 DSL customers, plans to launch a budget DSL service later this week.

Via Ireland was established in 1999 when US-owned internet company Via bought out Irish-owned ISP MediaNet for a sum believed to be in the region of £10m (€12.7m). In summer 2002, the company was bought back by Tom Kelly, one of the two founding partners of MediaNet and now the managing director of Via, for an undisclosed sum. The company employs 15 people.

By Brian Skelly and Suzanne Byrne