Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Eircom, formerly Telecom Éireann, is the former State telecommunications operator of Ireland – as a private company they continue to have a virtual monopoly in some telecommunications areas, its main competitor is Esat BT. They currently operate the fixed-line telephone network, act as an internet service provider (ISP) eircom.net, and operate a property alarm installation and montioring unit called Eircom Phonewatch. An analogue TACS and a digital GSM 900 network operation in Ireland, started as Eircell, was once owned by Eircom. It is now run by Vodafone. Eircom now has a 44% share of the Irish telecoms market.
In the early 1990s Telecom Éireann had one of the most modern telecommunications systems available. In recent years however, there has been criticism of Eircom – in particular they did not continue to invest in modern telecommunications and broadband technology; the flotation fiasco; inflated prices, mismanagement and overstaffing.
Due to EU laws requiring the opening up of the Irish telecommunications market, Eircom was privatised, with the theory that this would break their monopoly position. Eircom was then floated on the stock exchange, at what proved to be an inflated share price, small/first-time investors were encouraged by the Irish Government to buy shares. With Eircom in private ownership, the highly profitable mobile phone division, Eircell, was sold to Vodafone. As a result, thousands of Irish small investors now have small holding in Vodafone. Many however, considered this to be asset stripping from a public service body. Eircom as a private company still has public service requirements. Mary O'Rourke, as the minister responsible for Eircom, lost her seat in the 2002 Irish general election partly because of the shares fiasco that resulted from the telecoms, technology and general stock market bubble bursting in May 2000.
While Eircom retains a virtual monopoly on fixed line telephony in the State (the only exception being those operated by cable companies NTL and Chorus) it is required to allow carrier pre-selection (CPS). Introduced in Ireland in 2001, CPS allows subscribers to use an alternative provider for all their calls, without the need to dial indirect access codes or numbers, although they still receive a bill for Eircom for line rental. However, under a wholesale line rental scheme, it will now be possible for customers, especially business ones, to have a single bill from an alternative provider, rather than continuing to receive one from Eircom.
Complaints against Eircom
Ireland continues to lag behind in terms of broadband availability. It has recently been established that Eircom's broadband "trigger levels", the number of Eircom subscribers in an area who must request broadband before it is introduced, are set as high as 400% or more of subscribers in the area. The majority of Eircom's revenue now comes from dial-up internet charges. As a result, the company has a vested interest in delaying or stifling broadband roll-out. As of 2004, Eircom's PR division runs near-daily advertisements for broadband connections on national media. It has been suggested that this is more to ensure that politicians, local community groups and the public at large feel that Ireland is being connected, rather than advertise available services (most of the population cannot take up the broadband "deals").
Before eircom announced ADSL it started a massive advertising campaign which involved persistent telemarketers calling people who spend a lot of time on dial-up to persuade them to subscribe to ISDN - an old inferior technology. This technology, now 20 years old is not even available in all areas.
Their internet connections are not the most reliable - and will keep you on hold on a 30cent a minute premium rate number for half an hour if you try to report a problem with their service.
Eircom, similarly to most ISPs, has failed to act in stopping spam email. In the case of Eircom, there is not much incentive to act on the problem, as the company also has a monopoly on domestic and business phone lines. The more spam that Eircom customers receive, the longer they spend online checking email – so making more money for Eircom. Their email service continues to lack any filtering controls - even on the webmail interface. They also continue to alias old "tinet.ie" addresses to new "eircom.net" addresses - ensuring that large volumes of spam continue to enter long-time subscribers' inboxes.
Eircom have introduced and spam/virus filtering service called email protector for €2 per month along with their new "music club" which sells DRM-infested songs in WMA format.
After a slow start broadband subscriber numbers started to pick up in 2004 when Eircom cut the price for the basic DSL service and launched an intensive television advertising campaign. Eircom predict 100,000 DSL connection by year end 2004 and promise to announce ambitious further growth targets in 2005. They have stated that their strategy is to strongly grow broadband user numbers and re-enter the mobile market. Copying a similar scheme to that used by BT in the UK, they have introduced a trigger scheme for DSL enabling their smaller exchanges based on numbers of users committing to sign-up for service. BT has now discontinued this scheme, and is moving to upgrade all remaining exchanges in the UK to ADSL during 2005, (including Northern Ireland, which has the highest number of exchanges upgraded to broadband in the UK).
Ireland is generally considered to be at least 3 years behind the broadband leaders in Europe. Looking at these neighbouring markets also with former incumbent operators seeking to protect their market share provides a view of the likely events over the next couple of years:
Initially there is likely to be a focus on signing up as many users as possible in a classic land grab strategy. With declining voice revenues, Eircom will seek to replace these with charges for always on broadband. When a significant proportion of the easily connectable users are signed up the focus will shift to optimising the local loop for maximum reach. In parallel with this come introduction of higher speeds and increased download caps (so far Eircom have not enforced their existing caps) as users become more demanding and file sharing of Music, Movies, TV by legal and illegal means are increasingly adopted. Next will come the introduction of newer xDSL/LRE technologies requiring the modems of early adopters to be updated to support the new standards.
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