BT Ireland wins €50m contract to operate 999 emergency service

Telco finalising terms of five-year deal after seeing off Eir to become preferred supplier

BT Ireland has operated  Ireland’s Emergency Call-Answering Service since 2009. Photograph: Alan Betson

BT Ireland has operated Ireland’s Emergency Call-Answering Service since 2009. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

BT Ireland has retained a lucrative contract worth between €30-€50 million to operate the State’s 999 emergency call service.

The telco has been selected as the preferred supplier ahead of main rival Eir following a public procurement process.

The company is in the process of finalising the terms of a new five-year contract to operate the service with the Department of Communications.

BT’s Irish arm has operated Ireland’s Emergency Call-Answering Service (Ecas) since 2009, transferring all 999 and 112 calls and text messages to the relevant emergency service – garda, fire, ambulance or coast guard and, in cases involving aircraft, air traffic control.

To ensure fast and efficient call-processing, the company operates emergency call centres at three locations around the country – Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, Navan, Co Meath and East Point Business Park in Dublin.

The latest annual review of the Ecas published by the department shows the number of call-outs to emergency services decreased by 13.5 per cent in 2015 to approximately 1.86 million.

The Ecas contract is expected to generate up to €50 million, depending on call usage, in revenue for BT Ireland over the five-year term of the contract.

The contract is not State-funded with each 999/112 call charged a call-handling fee (CHF) set by the telecoms regulator, ComReg, and levied on communications companies. This handling fee can change, however, depending on the volume of calls handled and the costs incurred by the Ecas provider.

Procurement process

The department declined to confirm that the contract had been awarded BT Ireland.

“As the Ecas procurement process is still ongoing, the department will not be issuing a statement at this time,” a spokesman said. BT Ireland also declined to comment.

BT Ireland’s retaining of the contract ahead of market incumbent Eir represents a mini coup for the company, which employs 600 staff here and generates an annual turnover of €600 million.

It also comes on the back of securing a big contract with Sky Ireland to support the TV and broadband provider’s rollout of high-speed broadband here.

Under the terms of the deal, BT Ireland will provide Sky Ireland with a managed service to deliver its broadband products to the market, including the 540, 000 rural homes earmarked for the National Broadband Plan.

BT Ireland is best known as a wholesale provider of telecom services in Ireland. Its expanding telecoms network utilises a substantial tranche of the State’s rail network to service various parts of the country.