Eir’s wholesale unit in fibre dispute with Vodafone JV

06 June 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

A dispute is developing between OpenEir, the wholesale division of Eir, the Irish privately owned former incumbent operator, and ESB Networks, a fibre operator owned by the state-controlled electricity company.

Eir is looking for access to ESB Networks’ fibre and is claiming that ESB is preventing it from using the connections. The claim is particularly controversial both companies have bid for contracts under Ireland’s national broadband plan (NBP).

ESB Networks has a joint venture with Vodafone called Siro to offer broadband services in competition with Eir and other operators. Five groups are bidding for contracts.

Carolan Lennon, managing director of OpenEir, told the Irish Times that it needs to agree pricing with ESB so it can complete its bid for broadband contracts from the government.

“Failure to access the ESB’s network will make the NBP more expensive for us and slower to roll out,” she told the paper.

The ESB owns an extensive electricity infrastructure that reaches thousands of homes not yet reached by any telecoms network – potentially giving Eir or others access to new broadband markets.

ESB’s corporate communications manager Bernardine Maloney told the Irish Times that it “is currently processing any requests received for access to its electricity infrastructure”.

Lennon told the Sunday Independent newspaper that Eir is receiving many appeals from rural households asking to be connected to fibre. “These are really informed people with a sophisticated understanding of how it works, who are hugely frustrated by the lack of connectivity,” she said.