ComReg waits for details from Eircom

THE Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has named as October 24 the date on which it will receive market requirement determination (MRD) from Eircom.

This is seen as being the major green light to unbundling the local loop.

This is the copper connection between a local telephone exchange and a customer's premises.

Most of these are owned by Eircom, which is legally obliged to give access to rival operators. Unbundling, or greater accessibility, of the loop is vital in enhancing competition in the roll-out of broadband.

The MRD is the documentation in which Eircom outlines what it needs to do to facilitate a connection of its exchanges linking its competitors and individual customers and consumers.

But ComReg comissioner John Doherty yesterday said no updated fixed timeframe could be placed on the eventual unbundling at this stage. Last year ComReg instructed eircom to lower its charges for full unbundling by 13% to €14.65. That price is subject to inflation, but otherwise won't be raised before the end of 2007.

Mr Doherty was speaking at the launch of ComReg's Strategy Statement for the next two years. On the broader subject of broadband roll-out, the commission states it is looking to promote greater competition, as is the case on mainland Europe, as it leads to greater investment and stimulates the incumbent service provider to become even more pro-active.

While Ireland is still playing catch-up with many European markets in terms of broadband infrastructure and general roll-out, the technology is being used by an estimated 165,000 businesses and homes. But the popularity of ISDN usage shows no sign in waning, and is - if anything - growing. ComReg is calling for greater education and mentoring programmes in making businesses more accustomed to broadband.

Asked if a deadline could be put on the switch to a full digital television service in Ireland, Mr Doherty said Britain's target of between 2012 and 2014 was "achievable" here, but "certain legislative policy would need to be put in place first".

Elsewhere, ComReg maintains the current timeframe for a full liberalisaton of the postal sector by 2009 is on course.

Currently only six other countries - Sweden, Finland, Estonia, New Zealand, Colombia and Argentina - have postal sectors which are fully open to competition.

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