Universal Service Obligations

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What are the Universal Service Obligations?

The Universal Service Obligations (USO) ensure that a home phone service and other basic communications services, such as public payphones, are available to all consumers throughout the State.

Universal Service is designed to ensure that every person who makes a reasonable request for access for a connection and a phone service at a fixed location can have access to a basic set of telecommunications services, no matter where they live.

Home Phone

Who is the Universal Service Provider?

eir is the current designated Universal Service Provider (USP) for the period 29 July 2016 – 30 June 2021 for access at a fixed location.

What type of phone service is eir required to provide under the USO?

The phone service provided by eir must be capable of allowing local, national, and international phone calls, as well as fax communications.

It should also be capable of providing data communications at rates that are sufficient to permit functional internet access. 28.8kbps is the minimum dataspeed that eir must endeavour to deliver, however it does not preclude eir from offering data rates that are faster than this.

What is the reasonable access request?

Under Universal Service regulations, eir must meet every ‘reasonable’ request for connection to a phone line. In considering whether a request is reasonable the presence of alternative infrastructures and the costs of the connection are taken into account.

Normally, the USP will require the end-user to pay a set charge for a connection. Aside from this charge, the cost of the installation is borne by the service provider, and free to the end-user where the cost of connection is €1,000 or less.

Where the cost of the connection is more than €1,000 and alternative infrastructure is available at the premises, it is not a reasonable request and the USP does not have to connect the premises. However, if the alternative infrastructure available at the premises is a mobile network and the end-user communicates to the USP that it does not, or will not provide an equivalent service, then the USP must notify ComReg within two weeks of so being informed by end-user so that ComReg may decide the matter.

For connection requests where there is no alternative infrastructure available at the premises and where the cost of connection is €7,000 or less, this request will be considered reasonable and the USP shall connect the premises.

For connection requests where there is no alternative infrastructure available at the premises and where the USP estimates that the cost of connection will exceed €7,000, the end-user must agree to pay the costs in excess of €7,000 in order to have the premises connected by the USP.

How quickly should eir connect customers to the network?

ComReg sets binding annual USO quality of service performance targets for connections and these targets are part of Eir’s universal service obligation. The annual performance targets for connections are split between in-situ connections and all other connections.

‘In-situ connections’ do not require a call out to the premises as the activation of the line is carried out remotely. In line with Eir’s policy statement, it should take no more than a working day to activate such a request for connection. ComReg has set the following targets:

  • 80% of all in-situ connections shall be completed within 24 hours of request
  • 99.8% of all in-situ connections shall be completed within 2 weeks of request
  • All in-situ connections shall be completed within 2 months of request

For all other connections a call out to the premises is necessary and may involve making an appointment with the customer requesting a connection. The time taken to complete the connection will vary depending on the level of work involved and whether consents from road and planning authorities and private landowners are necessary. ComReg has set the following targets:

  • 80% of all requests shall be completed within 2 weeks of request
  • 85% of all requests shall be completed within 4 weeks of request
  • 90% of all requests shall be completed within 8 weeks of request
  • 95% of all requests shall be completed within 13 weeks of request
  • All requests shall be completed within 26 weeks of request

Quality of service performance in relation to these targets is published quarterly by us by way of an Information Notice and eir also publishes performance on its website at www.eir.ie/regulatoryinformation/quality-of-service/

You can also find out more by visiting the publications section of the ComReg website www.comreg.ie/publications/ and search under ‘Publication Category’ type “Quality of Service”.

Eir, at times, relies on third party intervention when installing lines. These can include permission from local authorities such as county councils when requiring road opening and closing.

Public Payphones

Eir is designated as the USP until 31 December 2020 for the provision of public payphones throughout the State in order to meet the reasonable needs of users in terms of geographical coverage, accessibility and the quality of services.  Payphones that are covered under the USO are those available on the street and in other public areas that are available to the public at all times.

Eir may remove public payphones if it is the case that there is evidence that the payphone is a focus for anti-social behaviour.  Payphones that fall below a usage threshold are no longer universal service phones and the future of these public payphones is a commercial decision for eir. In accordance with the usage threshold, where the payphone usage has been low (used less than 1 minute per day on average for six months and average minutes for the previous six months to Freephone numbers and emergency services is not more than 30 seconds of these minutes), or where there is more than one public payphone within 100 metres of each other or within the line of sight of each other, or where the removal of the payphone is requested by a local authority, these payphones cease to be USO public payphones.

In the event that eir proposes to remove a public payphone, they must notify ComReg at least eight weeks in advance of the proposed removal and must also post a notice on the public payphone for at least six weeks in advance of its proposed removal, informing users of their intention to remove it and the date of its proposed removal.

Directory of Subscribers (Phonebooks)

ComReg consulted on the future of the printed directory in 2018 and again in 2019.  In 2018, ComReg decided that the printed directory should be made available on request for the following annual period.   In 2018, eir was designated as the USP for the provision of an on-request printed phonebook directory. This was the first year that the printed phonebook was available only to those who made a request to receive it, as opposed to the previous nation-wide, blanket distribution. This means that in 2019, eir was required to offer everyone the chance to order a printed phonebook, rather than automatically providing one to all premises.   

eir offered consumers the chance to order a printed phonebook between 1 April 2019 and 30 June 2019, and consumers were able to order by phone, post or email. 2,354 requests were made for the printed directory .  The phonebook was made available either free of charge for collection at an eir store, or delivered to an address at the cost of €4.70, between 1 September 2019 and 31 October 2019.

ComReg consulted again in 2019, in light of the demand for the printed directory and the available alternatives including the eir phonebook online, ComReg decided  that no designation was required at this time.  An electronic directory is made available to all end-users via https://www.eirphonebook.ie/

Additionally, in accordance with Regulation 17(1) of the Universal Service Regulations, for those subscribers who are unable to use this directory because of a vision impairment and/or have difficulty reading the directory, undertakings must provide special directory enquiry arrangements to allow the use of a directory enquiry service free of charge, once certification of disability is provided by a registered medical practitioner or by an appropriate agent.

This service is provided by eir for relevant  undertakings’ subscribers, via 196.  You must first register for this service either by calling Freefone 1800 574 574 or accessing the registration form PDF.

Regulation 4(1) of the Universal Service Regulations requires that a comprehensive directory of subscribers is made available to all end-users in a form approved of by the Regulator, whether printed or electronic or both, and is updated at least once a year, or b) that a comprehensive telephone directory enquiry service is made available to all end-users, including users of public pay telephones.