Ireland's eircom must open FTTx networks to competitors

eircom, Ireland's incumbent telco, was told on Thursday by the country's regulator ComReg that it will have to make any of its new last mile Fiber to the Cabinet (FTTC) and Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) networks accessible to competitors.

ComReg said in Decision No. D05/10 and ComReg Decisions that eircom has significant market power (SMP) in two market segments: Wholesale Physical Network Infrastructure Access (WPNIA) and Wholesale Broadband Access (WBA).

The regulator said that the two rulings reflect the evolving European policy for next generation broadband technologies.

"Investment in next generation broadband should see up to one million customers having a choice of high speed broadband with access to speeds of between 30 Mb/s and 150 Mb/s," Com Reg said in a statement. "Next generation broadband services will play an important role in the development of the Irish economy and society, and will contribute to achieving the European and national targets for the EU Digital Agenda and National Broadband Plan."

eircom said that it's supportive of ComReg's new rules because they will give the carrier regulatory clarity needed to proceed with its network rollout.

"eircom welcomes the regulatory certainty for our fibre investment provided by today's decision," the telco said in prepared statement. "The network is a critical investment for eircom and Ireland. We now will work with ComReg and industry to launch services as quickly as possible."

eircom has laid out an ambitious, five-phase FTTx plan where it has dedicated €400 million ($546.4 million) in its fiber infrastructure to make services available to 1 million premises. The rollout will include a mix of FTTP and hybrid fiber/copper FTTC architectures.

Last September, the service provider began phase 3 of the project which would serve 40 locations with FTTx and a total of 350,000 premises with speeds of up to 40 Mbps when the service becomes available this year.

With the first phase of the FTTx rollout complete, eircom now passes over 100,000 homes and businesses with fiber, providing 40 Mbps. When it completes Phase 2, which was announced in April 2012, the telco will pass 250,000 homes and businesses in 27 communities.

Ireland is becoming an increasingly competitive market for higher speed broadband. In addition to eircom, BT (NYSE: BT) and local cable operator UPC are making progress with their respective next-gen broadband plans.

UPC is in the process of rolling out data speeds of up to 15 Mbps to 750,000 homes via its €500 million ($683 million) investment in its cable network, while BT Ireland is offering wholesale services to alternative providers such as Vodafone and Sky Ireland. Last September, BT began a FTTC service trial in various Ireland markets with the aim of providing a VDSL-based 80 Mbps service for wholesale customers.

For more:
- here's the ComReg release

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