UPC Ireland, which owns the cable television providers NTL and Chorus, has become the second-biggest broadband provider in Ireland and is now planning to aggressively target the fixed-line telephony market. Ciaran Hancock reports.
Figures released yesterday by Liberty Global, UPC's parent company, show that it had 55,300 broadband customers at the end of December. UPC is placed second in the market to Eircom, which earlier this week said it had 360,000 broadband users. Eircom's figures include those of rivals who buy a wholesale product off the telecoms company and then sell it on to customers.
The figures came on the same day that the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) revealed that almost three in 10 internet users have been refused access to broadband.
The report by ComReg shows that 28 per cent of those with an internet connection at home said they had attempted to subscribe to a broadband service but were told it was unavailable to them.
Some 45 per cent of home internet users had broadband access in the final quarter of 2006, but broadband availability is uneven throughout the State, ComReg said.
UPC had 595,200 television subscribers at the end of 2006, an increase of 18,800 on the previous year. This represents an increase of 3.3 per cent.
UPC is investing [euro]400 million upgrading its cable network so that it can offer a bundled package of TV, telephone and broadband to customers.
The company is planning to launch a major marketing campaign aimed at NTL customers in Dublin, Galway and Waterford from the end of this month.
As a cable TV operator, UPC is able to offer telephone services over its own network, thereby avoiding having to unbundle the local loop, which has proved a costly and frustrating experience for other companies, including Smart Telecom.
UPC is offering telephone rental for [euro]10 a month for customers who also take its TV and broadband packages. For those who don't want broadband, it will cost [euro]15. An additional [euro]5 a month gets you free off-peak and weekend calls to other landlines in Ireland.
Eircom, which dominates the fixed-line market here, charges [euro]24.18 a month for line rental with additional charges for calls. UPC will also offer free installation.