Another year, another new owner for eircom. The new owners of eircom impress me. They’re far more professional than the previous mobsters. They shine at PR. The charming French chairman Pierre Danon was in the job a day or two and he had his people on to ask IrelandOffline to meet him. He sent me a Christmas card this year. I’d have expected a barring order from the old crowd. The Australian CEO is the same. Always talking to those on the other side of the battlefield. After the TodayFM interview the other night, Rex Combs gave me a shout on my mobile for a “debriefing”. It was at times an “animated” conversation and it was quite shocking to hear from an eircom person that one of the biggest issues was availability. This was from the same company that blamed everything from weather to geography for lack of broadband and said people simply did not want it. This new guy is all about getting broadband to more people but with the Henry Ford attitude of they can have any broadband, once it is eircom’s.
[ As a quick aside it is funny to see that TIF which is bankrolled by eircom is now saying availability is an issue when 12 months ago it was saying the opposite, it is also funny to see the “independent” telecoms poodle is now saying avaiability is an issue when they did their best to blame demand less than 12 months ago. At times it is hard to distinguish the press wing of eircom from ComReg. ]
But it is not just PR, the new eircom are far far better at business and seem hell-bent on illiminating all competition. They are making local loop unbundling in Ireland even more difficult. They are rolling out broadband to 100 more Irish towns, which is great but those towns where they announced exchange upgrades are nearly, without exception, the same towns where there are Group Broadband Schemes and local wireless providers. They’re just going into take the market created by the others. They are rolling out Wimax in just 5 major cities in order to combat the competition from Irish Broadband, Digiweb, Clearwire and NTL cable. This can be seen by the fact that you can only get wimax after your line fails their broadband test and they can’t fix it. No way of directly odering Wimax from them. No rural rollout yet. I suggested to eircom they hand back an unused spectrum they have to rural companies can use it. I doubt it will happen.
eircom showed how they have the power this year when they called Smart’s bluff and 40,000 customers lost their phone service. A huge chunk of them, possibly up to two thirds moved back to eircom. They also showed their strong serong control of ComReg when they pressured them to take the 3G licence off Smart and when it went to court, the court sided with ComReg. eircom will now get the 3G licence. What’s more, this week’s TodayFM interview where ComReg’s John Doherty and eircom’s Rex Combs were like lovers the way they were in constant agreement. A telling part of this was when Comb’s said LLU was fine and Doherty agreed, yet the ComReg report above shows that LLU is far from working.
And lastly, ComReg and the DCMNR will do nothing whatsoever when eircom are given a further increase in the most expensive line rental in the EU and possibly the OECD.
Were I without a conscience and were eircom on the stockmarket, I’d be buying shares in them. 2007 is going to be a fantastic year for them and a a not so great year for anyone willing to take them on.