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UTV Internet is the first telecoms firm in Ireland to officially launch its flat-rate Internet product, as the race to scoop up customers gets underway.

The company is to launch on Friday two new flat-rate Internet products: UTVip Lite, which will cost €9.99 per month and will allow users to dial-up to the Net at anytime for up to 30 hours per month; and UTVip XL, which costs a flat rate of EUR24.95 per month and gives users 180 hours of unlimited Net usage. Users will be required to sign up for UTV's telephony service in order to become flat-rate customers.

"This gives our customers the choice to use the Internet in whatever way they wish," said Scott Taunton, managing director, UTV Internet. "We said we would be first to market with a new flat-rate service and are pleased to meet that commitment twofold today."

Although the company is the first out of the gate with the details of its products, a number of other telecoms are expected to launch their services in the next few days and weeks.

Esat BT, for example, is expected to release details of its flat-rate service by the end of the week, and it is thought that the firm will come in with a price of around €30 per month. Esat BT will not, however, require consumers to sign up for its telephony services in order to avail of its products.

Responding to questions on this difference in strategy, a UTV spokesperson pointed out that the firm was offering 25 percent off Eircom standard call rates for local, national and international voice calls and a 5 percent discount on mobile calls. "We think this is something that customers will appreciate and will want to use," the spokesperson said.

Eircom, meanwhile, has been somewhat tight-lipped on its planned flat-rate dial-up offerings, although insiders say that its prices should come in at about €30 or less. The incumbent's launch date for the service is also unknown and, for now, the company will only confirm that it plans to offer flat-rate Internet access packages "suitable for both business and home users, based on light, medium and heavy Internet usage."

All of these moves come after Ireland's Minister for Communications, Dermot Ahern, TD, said late last year that full flat-rate Internet, which Ireland has not had until now, was a necessity to boost Internet penetration and ensure competitiveness. Following that announcement, a series of regulatory initiatives were approved which opened the door for the provision of flat-rate (FRIACO) services in Ireland, starting 27 June.

© ENN

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