Written Answers. - Telecommunications Services.

Wednesday, 31 May 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 520 No. 2

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  81.  Mr. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Public Enterprise  Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke   if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Eircom still maintains exclusive use of lines in spite of a commitment arising from deregulation of the telecoms market in 1998 and a commitment from the Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation to give limited access to these lines to other telephone providers. [15553/00]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke): Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Following my announcement that Ireland would be ending its derogation on full liberalisation in 1998, the Director of Telecommunications Regulation issued 21 general and eight basic telecommunications licences. General licences enable operators to provide a full range of services to the general public, whereas basic licences cover all services other than voice telephony and services involving numbers. This process has been on going and there are now over 44 general licences and 26 basic licences in issue. The interconnection regulations issued in 1998 enable these new entrants to connect their customers with the bulk of telephone users and to carry calls on Eircom's network at rates set by the director.

Telecommunications licenses also allow an operator to build and operate a telecommunication's network of its own. However, it is generally not economically feasible for an operator to roll out its network to the local network or local loop and operators generally rely on Eircom's local network for access to their customers.

Cable operators who also hold telecommunications licences are entitled to offer telephony services over their own cable networks and, therefore, do not need to rely on Eircom's local loop.

My Department has been working in close co-operation with the director's office on a number of projects to enable other licensed operators to access the local loop. On 19 April this year, the director issued her decision on local loop unbundling. The director's decision provides for managed bit stream access and will enable oper[606] ators to provide advanced services over the copper line. The decision also provides the framework for investigation by working groups of full physical LLU with a target date for introduction of April 2001.

Another initiative by the director includes licensing the use of wireless in the local loop. This provides an alternative where the laying of wired networks may not be economically feasible. Although this process has been delayed due to court proceedings it is hoped that seven of these licences will be awarded by July of this year.

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