Half of firms upset with telecoms service - IBEC


Almost half of Irish businesses believe the Republic's telecoms infrastructure is inadequate and have complained about the poor quality of telephone lines, delays in installation and high costs.

Even more companies located outside Dublin, some 54 per cent, say they are unhappy with their telecoms services, a new report by IBEC's Telecommunications User Group has found.

The report found that 44 per cent of companies surveyed were dissatisfied with their telecoms service, an increase of 14 percentage points since the last survey was completed in 2001.

Three quarters of firms who say they are disappointed with their telecoms services, report that the lack of infrastructure is having a negative impact on their businesses. Seven out of 10 firms say the latest broadband services, such as digital subscriber line technology, are still not available in their area.

The services which cause companies the greatest dissatisfaction are customer service, complaint handling and redress and the timescale for delivery of new services.

Pricing is also identified as a problem area by 70 per cent of businesses, which report that it is either "difficult" or "very difficult" to compare tariffs of different service providers. This represents an increase of four percentage points compared with the results of a previous survey.

The report also says 82 per cent of firms experience coverage problems for mobile phone services outside of urban areas. But mobile services are uneven and inconsistent even in urban areas, with 58 per cent of firms complaining of coverage issues.

Ms Siobhan Masterson, an executive at the Telecommunications User Group, said the deterioration in the situation for businesses users since 2001 was disappointing and reflected a serious need for reinvestment in infrastructure, particularly in peripheral areas across the Republic.

The report outlines several recommendations for Government including positioning itself as an "evangelist for broadband". This would in turn stimulate the necessary demand to create a business case for operators to roll out the services needed, it says.

In areas where demand will never be sufficient to encourage operators to enter the market, investment in infrastructure needs to be subsidised by Government to ensure availability of service to everyone, the report by the lobby group recommends.

The report also calls on the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to develop a new pricing template for telecoms services to provide greater transparency for users. This could be updated regularly by the service providers, it says.

International experience tells us that a greater choice of technology will eventually come to Ireland, but that the speed at which it arrives is crucial to Ireland Inc, says the report, which forecasts that demand for telecoms services will grow despite the current economic downturn.

The survey was conducted by the Telecommunications User Group in July 2003 among 80 businesses throughout Ireland.