Mobile penetration and SMS increases

18 Jun 2003

Mobile penetration in Ireland has increased to 80pc, bringing the total number of mobile users in Ireland to 3.1 million people, the latest quarterly review from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has revealed. In the review, ComReg reiterated its plans to bring wholesale DSL rates down from the present €27 to €14.67 and revealed that it plans to amend Eircom’s narrowband license to promote competition in the marketplace.

The latest Broadband and Data Communications survey, conducted by MRBI, showed that more than 728 million text messages were sent during the first quarter of this year (January to March), that Ireland has reached 50pc national coverage for DSL (compared with a Western European average of 70pc), and that revenues in the communications sector increased 21pc during the period.

The survey showed that Ireland is finally showing some progress in terms of broadband rollout, but lags significantly in terms of adoption by businesses and householders. According to the survey, wireless broadband accounts for 3pc of the broadband access used by Irish businesses. ISDN is still the predominant access technology being used by Irish businesses at 55pc. DSL is used by 14pc of businesses at present.

Mobile penetration has increased 1pc to 80pc since the last quarterly review. Meteor still retains only 4pc of the market compared with O2 and Vodafone, which hold the remaining 96pc between them. The growth in the number of SMS messages continues, with each mobile subscriber now sending on average 78 messages each month, up from the 72 each month in the last quarter and 62 messages per month a year ago.

In terms of flat-rate internet access, price remains the most important factor for widespread take-up amongst consumers. Considerable lack of awareness of the services is a major factor deferring take-up, despite 50pc national coverage.

Digital TV is on the increase, with 27pc of all households (353,000 subscribers) in the country accessing cable/MMDS and satellite digital TV services. Revenues for cable/MMDS companies increased 5pc since last quarter.

However, the approaching storm on the horizon – in the form of Eircom’s obstinacy in the face of ComReg’s demands to reduce its wholesale rates – features strongly in the report. “The arrival of 3G in Ireland on 1 May offers further opportunities for the development of mobile on the move. However, the court proceedings launched by Eircom against the new local loop unbundling price and a pricing submission requested from them have delayed key developments and will be vigorously defended by ComReg,” chairperson Etain Doyle said. A court hearing will take place next Tuesday (24 June) at the High Court.

The regulator reiterated its demand that Eircom comply with its call to reduce the basic wholesale rates it charges licensed operators from the present €27 to €14.67 for local loop unbundling. “These charges will foster fair and sustainable competition and consumers will be able to benefit from the new broadband services and cheaper access to the internet. This decision is currently being challenged by Eircom,” the regulator said.

In what can be seen as a further effort at sabre-rattling by ComReg and a concession in the direction of FRIACO (flat rate internet access) services, the regulator revealed in the review that she plans to amend Eircom’s FWPMA (fixed wireless to multipoint access) narrowband license “in order to facilitate the development of FWPMA technologies and promote competition.” In February, the regulator proposed the removal of the obligation of Eircom to rollout a specified number of antenna sites per year as part of its general telecommunications license. Eircom was given 21 days to appeal but didn’t do so.

By John Kennedy