Comreg publishes tender for review of Eir’s dominant position

Review will consider possibility of separating Eir’s wholesale arm from its retail business

The review will consider whether Eir’s infrastructural arm Open Eir should be run as a separate business, as is the case in other jurisdictions. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Telecoms watchdog Comreg has invited tenders to carry out a regulatory review of Eir’s dominant position in the wholesale telecoms market.

Eir's wholesale customers, such as Vodafone and Magnet, rely on its infrastructure to connect their own customers, but compete directly with Eir's retail arm.

In a recent report, the State's largest telco detailed 20 areas where it was failing to provide equal access to its network to non-Eir companies.

On foot of this, Comreg decided to conduct a review of Eir’s regulatory compliance and whether its position was damaging to competition in the market.


The review will consider whether Eir's infrastructural arm Open Eir should be run as a separate business, as is the case in other jurisdictions.

Operated separately

In the UK, BT’s wholesale business is operated separately from the company’s retail arm, but the regulator there is seeking even greater division to ensure consumers and businesses get a choice of networks.

Comreg has decided to outsource its review of the Irish market to consultants, on the grounds that it does not have sufficient manpower to conduct its own investigation.

In its tender document, published at the weekend, the regulator said: “The overall purpose of the review is to establish whether Eir’s governance arrangements are sufficiently robust, such that they demonstrate and ensure ongoing compliance with regulatory obligations.”

The review will examine Eir’s overall regulatory compliance and its treatment of wholesale customers on a day-to-day basis.

The telco is currently in a dispute with wholesale customers over its fault repair times, which Comreg is due to rule on later this week.

The regulator’s tender document notes in cases where existing regulations have failed to achieve effective competition or there are persisting market failures, the regulator has powers to ensure the “wholesale provision of relevant access products in an independently operating business entity”. This is known in the industry as “functional separation”.

Comreg’s document also wants the review to consider the likely effect on competition should Eir win the contract to operate the Government’s rural broadband scheme, the tender for which will be awarded later this year.

Comreg hopes to publish the review by the end of 2016.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times