DSL broadens its reach


29 May 2003

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There have been few topics that have attracted more controversy than DSL (digital subscriber line) in recent years. At first it was a question of when we were going to get it. Then there was the matter of pricing and availability.

Adding that to the ongoing wrangling between the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and the various telecoms firms and you’ve got an interesting mix.

The good news is that DSL is here and the rollout is under way. The bad news is that Ireland lags behind other developed nations. According to the European Competitive Telecommunications Association, Ireland has the second lowest broadband penetration rate in Europe, ranked just above Greece. According to the ComReg Quarterly Communications Review from March of this year, approximately 3,300 DSL lines have been ordered, an increase of approximately 74pc since last quarter, but still quite a low figure.

However, the situation is showing some signs of improvement. Entry-level prices have gone down in recent times, opening up the market to single users. Furthermore, the number of telephone exchanges at which DSL is available is steadily increasing.

According to Eircom’s Nuala Buttner, 95 exchanges have now been upgraded for DSL. Buttner says that this means more than 700,000 customer lines can now avail of DSL and the company is estimating that this figure will rise to approximately one million by the end of the year. Eircom was unable to give an exact figure on the take-up to date. However, the recent ComReg figures mean that the level of take-up by March is contained in that number, ie the low thousands.

According to Buttner, the vast majority of customers to date have been small to medium-sized enterprises with a sprinkling of high-end residential users. Aside from the challenges of rollout, Buttner says that uptake also depended upon educating businesses on the potential benefits of the technology, whether it be higher download speeds or potential cost savings.

When it comes to DSL, Eircom is not the only show in town. Esat BT is also rolling out DSL to its customers. According to Deirdre Donegan, DSL product manager at Esat BT, the company is near the end of its current rollout programme. Some 38 exchanges have been upgraded to DSL and a further two will follow shortly. In addition to this, Esat BT has purchased Eircom wholesale bitstream which it will offer from Eircom exchanges. Unlike the exchanges where it has its own equipment in place, this offering will centre on the residential and single user market.

Donegan says that uptake of the service amongst businesses has been relatively slow and says the company currently has between 1-2,000 DSL customers. Raising awareness of the technology she felt was vital to growing the market and the company has done numerous roadshows around the country to highlight the potential of DSL.

With regard to the further rollout of DSL services Donegan was unable to get into specifics. “At the moment we’re concentrating on the 40 exchanges we’ve enabled and increasing demand levels there,” she said. However, she did say that if smaller communities wanted DSL strong partnerships would have to be formed. Esat BT, she says, is open to approaches from local lobby groups such as chambers of commerce. “If enough interest is there to make it a viable option, then we’d have to consider it,” she says.

Aside from the ‘big two’ of Irish telecoms, a third firm is now also offering DSL services. Dublin-based NetSource (formerly Via Networks) is buying Eircom’s wholesale bitstream product and reselling single and multi-user packages.

With the arrival of NetSource and a number of satellite and wireless providers, a fair amount of competition is emerging in the broadband market. In some locations Irish businesses now have a choice of broadband provider. As to how far broadband will reach and how much services will improve, only time will tell.

DSL availability

Eircom
The company will have upgraded 95 exchanges by June, listed below. A further 10 exchanges will be upgraded between July and September. These are: Balbriggan, Foxrock and Rush in Dublin, Maynooth in Kildare, Tycor in Waterford, Clonmel in Tipperary, Hettyfield and Glanmire in Cork, Caherdavin in Limerick and Monaghan Town.

Belcamp, Dublin
Blanchardstown, Dublin
Cabra, Dublin
Clontarf, Dublin
Coolock, Dublin
Finglas, Dublin
Phibsboro, Dublin
Santry, Dublin
Summerhill, Dublin
Whitehall, Dublin
Sutton, Dublin
Malahide, Dublin
Dublin Airport, Dublin
Swords, Dublin
Portmarnock, Dublin
Clondalkin, Dublin
Crown Alley, Dublin
Crumlin, Dublin
Custom House Dock, Dublin
Dolphin’s Barn, Dublin
Lucan, Dublin
North Main, Dublin
Palmerstown, Dublin
Ship Street, Dublin
Merrion, Dublin
Citywest, Dublin
Ballyboden, Dublin
Beggars Bush, Dublin
Bray, Wicklow
Dundrum, Dublin
Dunlaoire, Dublin
Nutley, Dublin
Priory Park, Dublin
Rathmines, Dublin
Rochestown, Dublin
Sandyford, Dublin
Sandyford RSU, Dublin
Shankill, Dublin
Tallaght, Dublin
Terenure, Dublin
Walkinstown, Dublin
Drogheda, Louth
Dundalk, Louth
Wicklow Town, Wicklow
Arklow, Wicklow
Greystones, Wicklow
Portlaoise, Laois
Naas, Kildare
Leixlip, Kildare
Celbridge, Kildare
Carlow Town, Carlow
Athy, Kildare
Waterford Town, Waterford
Wexford Town, Wexford
Enniscorthy, Wexford
Gorey, Wexford
New Ross, Wexford
Kilkenny City, Kilkenny
Quaker Road, Cork
Douglas, Cork
Cork Central, Cork
Churchfield, Cork
Ballincollig, Cork
Wellington Road, Cork
Dennehys Cross, Cork
Mallow, Cork
Bandon, Cork
Macroom, Cork
Killarney, Kerry
Tralee, Kerry
Listowel, Kerry
Castletroy, Limerick
Limerick City, Limerick
Dooradoyle, Limerick
Shannon Airport, Clare
Ennis, Clare
Shannon, Clare
Newmarket, Clare
Mervue, Galway
Shantalla, Galway
Galway HPO, Galway
Ballinasloe, Galway
Tuam, Galway
Westport, Mayo
Castlebar, Mayo
Ballina, Mayo
Roslevin, Westmeath
Athlone, Westmeath
Mullingar, Westmeath
Rathedmond, Sligo
Sligo HPO, Sligo
Letterkenny, Donegal
Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim
Navan, Meath
Ashbourne, Meath

Esat BT
The company now has upgraded 38 exchanges, listed below. A further two, Wexford Town and Portlaoise, will be upgraded in the next few months. In addition to this the company will be offering residential DSL services at Eircom exchanges, using wholesale bitstream bought from Eircom.

Crown Alley, Dublin
Beggars Bush, Dublin
North Main, Dublin
Tallaght, Dublin
Dolphins Barn, Dublin
Ship Street, Dublin
Summerhill, Dublin
Terenure, Dublin
Nutley, Dublin
Dun Laoghaire, Dublin
Greystones, Wicklow
Wicklow Town, Wicklow
Arklow, Wicklow
Kilkenny City, Kilkenny
Gorey, Wexford
Enniscorthy, Wexford
Tycor, Waterford City
Waterford Central, Waterford City
Churchfield, Cork City
Cork Central, Cork City
Quaker Road, Cork City
Mallow, Cork
Tralee, Kerry
Killarney, Kerry
Dooradoyle, Limerick City
Roches Street, Limerick City
Thurles, Tipperary
Clonmel, Tipperary
Navan, Meath
Drogheda, Louth
Athlone HPO, Westmeath
Roslevin, Westmeath
Mullingar, Westmeath
Galway HPO, Galway City
Mervue, Galway City
Ballinasloe, Galway
Ballina, Mayo
Sligo Town, Sligo