Eir bids to ditch outdated copper landline network
Eir has applied to the telecoms regulator, Comreg, for permission to start scrapping its traditional copper landline network in some parts of the country.
The operator says that many people don't need a copper landline anymore and that it will soon launch new online voice services instead.
"Eir is modernising its network facilities and within the next two to three years, we anticipate there will be geographic areas with widespread availability of next generation access facilities," said Eir ceo Richard Moat in a letter to Ireland's telecoms regulator, Comreg.
"As the utilisation of the legacy [copper] network declines, it will not be economically efficient for Eir to maintain parallel next generation and [copper] networks and services. Eir would therefore like to be in a position to undertake the orderly and timely retirement of legacy networks and services."
Mr Moat said that the company would not withdraw such legacy network services from areas that do not have access to fibre technologies.
"There's no question of someone being left without a phone or a voice service," a spokesman for Eir said.
"We would see this as a customer-led migration that will take a number of years. It's not like there'll be a countdown for phones to be switched off.
"No one is being force migrated. We have a vision on an all-IP network, based on a €400m investment in fibre plus an additional €200m for a further 300,000 homes. That means we can retire these legacy services."
Comreg is to consider Eir's request and what it mean for the regulator's guarantee that every home in the country gets access to a fixed voice service from Eir.
Eir's move could mark the beginning of the end of an historic phone network that has proved controversial in recent for rural access to services. Eir owns tens of thousands of kilometres of copper lines that form the closest thing Ireland has to a national telephone and internet network.
According to recent national surveys, one-in-three Irish homes suffers from internet access of under five megabits per second, (Mbs), which is inadequate to perform most online tasks in a typical household or small business.
A recent Vodafone survey claims that seven out of 10 small Irish firms are being held back by poor broadband infrastructure.
The Government's state-subsidised National Broadband Plan is set to start its delayed rollout next year, with a completion date in 2023.
The scheme promises minimum broadband speeds of 30Mbs for every premises in the country.