Eircom’s TV venture makes for a more competitive market
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte with Herb Hribar, chief executive of Eircom announcing the new television service yesterday. Photograph: Maxwells
Eircom has finally taken the wrapping off its digital TV service, providing the Irish consumer with yet another entertainment option. It puts the company into direct competition with UPC and Sky in the living room, and makes it the first operator to offer quad play – TV, broadband, mobile and home phone.
Eircom’s eVision service looks, at first glance, like an attractive prospect. It has a number of selling points. The first is the price, which for the basic package on Eircom is €10. The set-top box, which includes the ability to record to an internal hard drive, is free. It’s free regardless of whether you are an existing customer or a new one, although as the late entrant to the market, Eircom is probably trying to generate a good deal of goodwill that it hopes will encourage customers to sign up.
It competes with UPC and Sky on a number of levels. It offers high-definition channels for an additional fee, and multiroom viewing. The set-top box allows you to record up to 240 hours of viewing, which is comparable with its rivals. And there’s the ability to pause and rewind live TV.
One area where Eircom is keen to emphasise its different approach is in the installation. Instead of asking you to install the service yourself, Eircom is willing to send you out an engineer free of charge to set everything up and leave you with a working TV, normal stress levels and no post-install mess.
Everything has been designed to make it easy to use, from the remote control – Eircom is keen to push the fact that it has no mystifying coloured buttons – to the on-screen programme guide.
There are some things to be aware of though. The service is limited in that you must subscribe to Eircom’s e-fibre broadband product to get it, so if you are outside of the service area, you’re out of luck. At least for the moment, anyway; Eircom is rolling out its e-fibre network as fast as it can. Currently, about 500,000 households can access the next gen services, and thus the TV service; by June that is expected to rise to more than a million households.
It’s not wireless either, so your set-top box will need to be close to your e-fibre connection. That could cause some problems for some customers who find the main TV is in a different room to the e-fibre connection, but Eircom has found a way around it with Homeplugs, which turn electrical wiring in your home into a network.
On demand services are sadly missing from the line-up, but Eircom has promised that these, along with second screen functions, are on its roadmap. Although the majority of television viewing is still linear and at the mercy of broadcasters’ schedules, the growing trend for services such as Netflix means customers may consider on-demand services an essential when choosing their TV provider.
Not included in the channel lineup are UTV or Sky’s basic channels – Sky One, Living TV and Sky News are all a part of UPC’s basic channel line-up.
Regardless, Eircom’s assault on the home entertainment market can only be good news for consumers.