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Eircom has confirmed it is to invest €60m over the next three years on upgrading its central telecommunications network.

A spokesman for the former incumbent confirmed to ENN on Monday that reports on the investment in last weekend's Sunday Business Post were accurate.

The spokesman said the upgrade will see 1GB of bandwidth provided to 240 telephone exchanges, 66 of which will be provided with 10GB of bandwidth. The investment will affect 1.3 million of Eircom's 1.6 million customers.

Eircom says the upgrade means the majority of its customers will have access to faster broadband services, with the greater bandwidth resulting in fewer delays for customers when a large number of users are online. The move comes as demand for broadband increases, with Eircom saying it is currently signing up 4,000 new customers a week.

The upgrade was broadly welcomed by BT Ireland chief executive Danny McLaughlin who also told ENN that more development was needed from Eircom.

"If their core network is better then, as one of their main customers, we can look forward to better service," he said. "However, LLU [local loop unbundling] doesn't figure into it [the investment]. We are waiting for the latest ComReg report on LLU and we expect it will probably be pretty negative about the progress so far."

Last week BT Ireland announced a £260m (€387m) investment in its telecommunications network in Northern Ireland. A further €113m will be invested in the south where the telecoms operator's core network and broadband exchanges will be upgraded.

McLaughlin told ENN that these upgrades will increase the reach of BT Ireland's broadband service to 70 per cent of potential customers. The upgraded service, which will provide download speeds to customers of up to 8Mb per second, will be available from May.

The larger investment in the north is due to more work being required in the region, McLaughlin explained: "It's a replacement of the entire old infrastructure onto one multi-service network."

The new system, known as the 21st Century Network, will power all of BT's telephone, broadband, and ISDN services in Northern Ireland and Britain. The upgrade will see the north's 160 local telephone exchanges converged into three major hubs, two of which will be in Belfast with the other in Portadown, County Armagh.

Copyright © 2007, ENN

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