The majority of fixed line telephone and broadband connections are delivered to premises using copper lines. The copper line technology was originally designed to deliver telephony services (i.e. voice services) at a fixed location. Copper-based networks (legacy infrastructure) were not designed to carry large amounts of data or internet traffic.
As electronic communications have evolved there are now greater demands on communication systems to carry increasing volumes of data traffic. It is apparent that there are now physical limitations on copper networks to cater for today’s requirements of faster and more reliable data services and more flexible telephony services. Such telecommunication services can be better served by more modern infrastructure, such as fibre-based networks.
In that context, Eircom is continuing to expand its fibre network (which is expected to be complete in 2026), while National Broadband Ireland (NBI) is rolling out a fibre network in the rural areas of the country (which is expected to be complete in 2027). These network developments will likely result in fibre-based services becoming more widely available at homes/premises, with Retail Service Providers (including Eircom’s own retail arm, eir) actively selling fibre-based products to these homes/premises resulting in the gradual termination of copper-based services. Over the coming years, with the widespread availability of fibre-based networks and other modern technologies, the copper network will eventually be switched off (Copper Switch-off).
On 4 March 2021, Eircom shared with ComReg, and also published on its website, a white paper entitled “Copper switch-off: Leaving a legacy for the Future” (available on Eircom’s website here) in which Eircom signalled its intent to migrate copper-based services to largely fibre-based networks and ultimately switch off its copper access network.
On 9 April 2021, ComReg published Information Notice 21/35 (available here) welcoming Eircom’s initiative and confirming that ComReg would engage with Eircom and other stakeholders on this important matter and would consult publicly in due course.
On 3 August 2021, ComReg published Call for Inputs, entitled “Migration from Legacy Infrastructure to Modern Infrastructure: Call for Inputs” (available here). The Call for Inputs suggested possible key principles to govern copper switch-off from both a wholesale and retail perspective as well as possible principles for a framework governing Migration from Legacy Infrastructure to Modern Infrastructure and the requirements to be met in these respects by Eircom as Significant Market Power (SMP) operator. Submissions were received from seven stakeholders: ALTO, BT, Eircom, NBI, SIRO, Sky and Vodafone.
On 25 March 2022, in the interests of transparency, ComReg has published the submissions to the Call for Inputs (subject to the protection of any confidential information) which is available here.
With the benefit of the submissions to the Call for Inputs, ComReg published a Consultation outlining ComReg’s proposal for a Framework that would apply throughout Eircom’s transition from legacy infrastructure to modern infrastructure for so long as it is designated with SMP on relevant markets.
ComReg welcomes all written responses from stakeholders by 5pm on 11 May 2022. Responses must be submitted in written form (post or email) to the following address/email and clearly marked “Submissions to ComReg 22/13R”:
Commission for Communications Regulation
One Dockland Central,
1 Guild St.,
On 29 April 2022, ComReg published an Information Notice and a revised version of the Consultation 22/13 following some minor alterations. Find the notice here.