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Eircom has announced the launch of Ireland's first commercially available ADSL service.

Branded "eircom i-stream", the incumbent Irish telco said it will invest more than E125 million (£77 million) over the next five years to fund the roll-out of the broadband service.

The telco added that the service would initially be targeted at business and domestic users and should begin to be rolled out from the beginning of October in areas where exchanges have been upgraded.

The single user USB service costs E99 (£61) a month - about £20 a month more than similar services in the UK - with installation and hardware costs adding an extra E270 (£166) to the bill.

Said Alfie Kane, Group Chief Exec, eircom plc: "There has been much speculation and anticipation for ADSL technology and we are confident that the announcement today delivers customers the very best service at what we believe is an competitive price."

However, eircom's announcement has drawn fire from lobbyists who claim the service is too expensive, is not available nation-wide and imposes usage restrictions.

Said IrelandOffline vice chairman, David Long: "This service is aimed at business users and SMEs, not for people who work from home or want to use the Internet recreationally.

"...the lowest price a user can expect to pay to connect to ADSL is Euro369 with equipment and fees, and then Euro99 a month after that. This is not affordable for the majority of the country."

IrelandOffline also slammed the telco for imposing a 3 gigabyte-a-month usage limit on the service. Said Long: "To produce a cap on the amount of data that a user can transfer per month and charge those users more when they exceed that limit does not make this a competitive product, despite what Mr Kane says.

"Eircom needs to release a flat rate Internet access product that will give access to everyone for a low price which will stimulate Internet growth in the country," he said

At a meeting to discuss the state of Net access in Ireland last month eircom execs said that 47 per cent of adults in Ireland have no interest in the Internet.

Said Long: "The very fact that eircom has said publicly that there is no interest in the Internet in Ireland, and the price has been set so high, makes us ask the question: how do they expect the model to work?" ®

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