Eircom broadband spend under review, committee told

 

EIRCOM IS reviewing its level of investment in its next generation of broadband networks as a result of the economic downturn, it told an Oireachtas committee yesterday.

Appearing before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources yesterday, the company said it plans to upgrade its core network from copper wire to fibre at urban centres and regional towns throughout the country by 2011.

It is also upgrading its current network to deliver speeds of 1 Mbit to 24 Mbits per second.

However, the company could not give the committee a definite figure on investment.

Eircom’s head of public policy Pat Galvin said the firm had just come to the end of an investment cycle which saw it put about €1 billion into its infrastructure in the past three years. “Eircom, given the current economic position, has no choice but to review and look at the business and these sort of investments,” he said. “The vision and the aspiration of the investment, the scale of the investment, needs careful consideration.”

The company also said technology limitations would mean there would still be some people too far from the exchanges to avail of Eircom’s broadband service.

Fine Gael’s Neil Coonan asked whether Eircom was abandoning rural customers, a charge the firm denied.

The committee urged Eircom to consult communities before removing more than 2,100 phone boxes around the country. A decision on this is due this month.

Eircom told the Oireachtas committee that the use of public payphones had seriously declined in recent years, with revenues falling more than 70 per cent since 2002.

High mobile phone penetration is blamed in part for the decline, with cuts in roaming charges also having an impact, as tourists previously would have been one of the major markets for Eircom.

Describing payphones as “the telex of our day”, Mr Galvin said the kiosks were no longer relevant to young people.