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Sun shines brightly for broadband

ComReg report shows strong summer uptake

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ComReg has released its quarterly report which shows strong broadband take-up over the summer months contributed to total telecoms revenues of €1.06bn for the period.

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) official figures show 372,200 Irish broadband subscribers by the end of June, and ComReg officials said the current number was around 410,000 based on a surge of new subscriptions over the summer. However, officials pointed out this was an unaudited figure based on data provided by broadband operators.

This translates to a per capita broadband penetration figure approaching 10 per cent in August, or officially 8.8 per cent in June; still a good bit below the EU25 average of 14.07 per cent which was recorded at the beginning of the year and has probably increased since then.

Although broadband figures may have risen in real terms, penetration could be negatively affected by adjustment for the latest census figures showing population at around 4.2m.

"The summer is usually a slack period in terms of new subscriptions," ComReg chairperson Isolde Goggin told ENN, "I think a lot of advertising over the summer - including a government campaign - and more competition from some new companies is increasing general awareness of broadband," she added in relation to the unseasonal fillip.

Broadband subscriptions including DSL, cable, fixed wireless, fibre and satellite connections now account for nearly 40 per cent of all internet connections as the number of narrowband subscribers continues to decline.

IrelandOffline chairman Damien Mulley welcomed ComReg's latest figures, and told ENN that many of his organisation's members can now access broadband due to a slight increase in availability over the summer.

He sounded a note of caution, however, saying that only five per cent of exchanges in Ireland are fully broadband enabled (Local Loop Unbundling) compared to an EU15 average of around 20 per cent.

"Telcos that offer LLU products can dictate what broadband product they are selling in terms of price, speed, capability, and contention ratios. If most are still forced to re-sell Eircom's product then its affects price, competition, service and ultimately choice," he said.

The total number of metered narrowband subscribers is 487,000 (down 10 per cent over 12 months) while the figure for flat rate subscribers is 96,000 (down five per cent).

ComReg's figures also reveal that alternative operators are gaining share in the broadband market at the expense of Eircom. The incumbent's retailed DSL lines now account for 52 per cent of all broadband connections compared to 61 per cent this time last year.

In terms of mobile phone penetration, Ireland has a rate of 103 per cent or 4.4m active SIM cards. Irish consumers sent almost 1.5bn text messages in the second quarter of 2006 - an average of 114 per person every month.

Meteor continues to gain market share from Vodafone and O2. Its slice of the market stood at 15.6 per cent at the end of June, compared to 36.6 per cent for O2 and 47.8 per cent for Vodafone. ComReg said this is the first time that Meteor's market share has exceeded 15 per cent.

Mobile retail revenue for the quarter was a whopping €477m - a four per cent increase on the previous quarter (€460m). This translates as the highest average revenue per user (ARPU) figure in Europe of €47 per month, meaning Irish people pay around €15 more per month for their mobiles than the European average. This figure is even more remarkable because a massive 21 per cent of this figure in Ireland is spent on data services such as texting.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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