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Ireland's communications regulator ComReg says its flat-rate Internet access plans are on track, with wholesale prices set to come in at €12.77 per customer, per month.

ComReg has reviewed Eircom's pricing submissions, and says that FRIACO (Flat-rate Internet Access Call Origination) is set for launch this summer. "We are pleased with the prices that Eircom has delivered and the process for FRIACO remains on track," said a ComReg spokesperson.

Flat-rate Internet access will give Web users at home and in small businesses the ability to log on to the Internet over dial-up for unlimited periods of time at a fixed monthly price. Entrant telecoms, such as Esat BT and Nevada Tele.com, will buy wholesale access from Eircom and resell it to consumers.

In its update, ComReg said that after reviewing Eircom's submission, the rate for un-metered wholesale Net access shall be set at €14,728 per 2Mb/s per annum, plus certain small administration fees. This price translates as roughly €12.77 per customer, per month on a wholesale basis -- one of the lowest flat-rate prices in Europe.

Esat BT gave a lukewarm reaction to the price: "We are not dissatisfied. They are within the ballpark we expected." Esat BT, along with Nevada and Eircom, is expected to begin selling a consumer flat-rate product by June. The price of these products considered crucial to the growth of at-home Net use in Ireland.

"The ultimate success of this announcement will depend on the availability and the affordability of the retail services that come from the wholesale pricing," industry pressure group Ireland Offline said in a statement, welcoming ComReg's ruling. "It is imperative that retail flat-rate access is priced so that it appeals to the maximum amount of people."

According to Ireland Offline chairman David Long, a price of about €30 is the maximum that should be charged by any Irish telecom for a retail flat-rate service. "Above €30, Irish citizens won't really embrace the Internet," Long told ElectricNews.Net. He also said that Ireland Offline would welcome innovative off-peak (after 6pm) offerings from smaller telecoms in the months ahead, which should come in at prices substantially lower than €30.

Esat BT said it is confident it can offer a service for between €25 and €35 per month. An Esat BT spokesperson added that the firm was "hopeful" that its price would be below €30 "but we'll have to do what is economically viable."

© ENN

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