Ireland’s telecoms regulator the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has asked the country’s leading players to reopen negotiations on local loop unbundling (LLU), a little over a month after BT Ireland, Smart and Magnet walked away from the process citing eircom’s intransigence as the reason. Talks on LLU started in December 2004 and have since focused on implementing automated processes for rival telcos to provide broadband internet access using LLU over eircom’s network. However, a month ago BT Ireland walked away from the talks saying the incumbent ‘continues to frustrate the progress of LLU and we do not see positive indications that a future change of ownership at the monopoly provider will bring a more progressive approach’. Smart and Magnet also walked away.
ComReg says it has held several meetings in recent weeks to find a way to break the impasse and has highlighted three key dates on its calendar to realise LLU. The regulator thinks that by 19 June eircom will agree to new measures that will allow rival operators to decide the method by which broadband is delivered when customers are taking calls and line rental from other operators. By end-July ComReg will have identified the next steps needed to allow customers to take advantage of LLU and switch provider ‘seamlessly’, and on 8 August an interim product will be available, enabling subscribers to keep their existing number when switching broadband service provider.
Commenting on the developments, ComReg commissioner John Doherty said: ‘While Ireland’s adoption of broadband is gaining momentum rapidly, LLU remains a key catalyst for broadband supply and demand.’ Ireland is home to around 330,000 broadband subscribers and take-up has increased by 114% in the past year. Approximately 70% of high speed lines in the country are DSL, although ComReg is keen to promote the availability of alternative platforms such as wireless and cable.