EU Deregulation

The EU Treaty provides that businesses entrusted with the operation of services of general economic interest are subject to competition rules insofar as this does not obstruct the performance of their functions. EU directives in the early 1990s regulated the circumstances in which states might mean maintain exclusive rights for undertakings to which states had granted exclusive rights are monopolies in respect of public telecommunications services

EU directives in 1990 provide for the establishment of EU single market in telecommunications service through open network provision. European Communities (Application of Open Network Provision to Leased Lines) Regulations 1994 obliged the regulator at that point the Department of Communications, to publish licensing and technical requirements for terminal equipment and facilities  for the development and operation of leased lines in the telecommunications network, providing for transparent transmission capacity between network termination points.

Telecom Eireann was obliged to publish information in relation to technical characteristics, tariffs in relation to leased lines  in accordance with the EU legislation. Users could appeal to the national regulator in relation to a dispute about determinations in relation to at all the particular type of leased line. Access and usage of these lines could be restricted only in accordance with certain essential requirements.


The Telecommunications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1996 provided for the establishment of the Office of Director of Telecommunication Regulation. The functions were transferred from the Minister for Communications who dealt with regulation of telecommunication carriers  radio communications and cable television. The regulator could regulate tariff for certain services.

The ODTR was also responsible for the  regulation and management of the radio frequency spectrum under  the Wireless Telegraphy Act. The Minister retained power to prepare a plan for the management and regulation of the  frequency spectrum with power to give policy directions based on frequency management. Certain regulations by the director require the consent of the Minister.

The ODTR was independent in the exercise of its functions. The regulator was levied financed by levies on telecommunication service providers and certain licence fees under the transferred regulation.

The regulator was given powers of investigation and enforcement. Authorised officers had powers of entry, inspection , requiring information, carrying out tests et cetera. Offences were created under the legislation.

The services including tariffs are subject to regulation, where there was no competition in the market, and they were provided by an undertaking with a dominant position. In other sectors of the market price control was not required. The Department could provide an order with an overall limit on the percentage change in costs  might be imposed for certain classes of services.

They might be reviewed by the Director after two years at the Minister’s initiative. The terms might be modified on the basis of the review. Before modifying the order, the Director was obliged to give particulars to the provider of the services concerned and inform them of the right to take representations which must be considered.


The Communications Regulation Act 2002 replaced the Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation with the Commission for Communications Regulation commonly known as ComReg. The Commission comprises a three person executive panel in place of a single regulator. The legislation updated the framework for the development of electronic communications infrastructure including sharing of strategic national infrastructure.

The Commission is obliged

  • to ensure compliance by regulated undertaking with its obligation in relation to access to and supply of electronic communication services, network facilities a
  • to manage the radio frequency spectrum
  • to ensure compliance by providers of postal service with obligations
  • to investigate complaints as regards supply of and access to electronic communication services and networks
  • monitor compliance with legislation on the placing on market of telecommunications equipment.

The Commission impose a levy on providers including postal providers for the purpose of discharging its functions. In the case of electronic communications, it was also used to fund payments by the Minister for Communications of membership charges to international telecommunication organisations.

The Commission was given administrative powers to powers to appoint authorised officers for the purpose of investigation. Powers of inspection and investigation were granted with offences for obstruction and interference with officers in the exercise of their powers. The level of fines for breach of legislation was raised to €4 million or 10% of turnover on conviction on indictment.

The powers of the Commission in relation to interconnection agreements and sharing key nfrastructure were updated. Network operators may be obliged to inform the Commission of negotiations. It  has power to impose terms and conditions if agreement is not reached.

The European Communities (Telecommunications Services) Regulations 1992 (SI No. 45) implemented the EC directive on access to public telecommunication networks. It liberalised access to data transmission and certain value-added areas.

Operators of the communication service were entitled to connect to the system to the public telecommunication network of Telecom Eireann and to have access  as necessary for the purpose of their systems. The conditions were to be determined on an objective basis that are non-discriminatory transparent and compatible with the principles of proportionality. If he terms for interconnection agreements were not agreed the Minister might specify the conditions under which interconnected connection may be effected.

Mobile Telephony

European Communities (Mobile and Personal Communications) Regulations, 1996 give effect to EU legislation on the abolition of exclusive rights for state telecommunication service providers. This had been the exclusive right of Telecom Eireann under the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983 but was required to be liberalised under EU law.

An EU commission directive 96 liberalised market for mobile personal communications. Regulations disapplied the 1983 legislation to mobile and personal communication systems. There are required mobile and personal communication service providers to be licensed by the Department of Transport energy and communications.

The Minister might provide a licence for mobile services specifying detailed conditions. There was a right of appeal to the High Court in respect of the Minister’s decision on grant refusal or significant alterations of a licence. The regulations provided for enforcement and regulatory powers. Authorised officers could enter premises to make inspections about gratis require information test apparatus et cetera.

The regulations authorised the Minister to grant a licence to Esat Digiphone which had been awarded the second mobile licence pursuant to a process conducted 1995 for a cellular digital land-based mobile telecommunication service to compete with the state provider Eircell limited a subsidiary of Telecom Eireann.


Telecommunications Tariff Regulation Order 1996 (S.I. 393 of 1996) provides for  telecommunications charges. In areas where there was no competition and Telecom Eireann had a dominant position price caps and controls applied. This included provision of telephone exchange lines, provisions of integrated services digital network ISDN lines international dialled calls operator calls directory enquiries pay phone calls.

The European Communities (Telecommunications Infrastructure) Regulations 1997 (S.I. No. 338 of 1997) further liberalised telecommunications services.A licence may be granted under the regulations for the establishment of a telecommunication network providing  communication services. Provisions were made for grant refusal revocation and amendment of licences. Regulatory and enforcement powers were provided for the director. Sanctions for breach of the legislation was provided for.

They removed restrictions on the use of cable television networks for provision of telecommunication services that had been already liberalised and further limited the exclusive right of Telecom Eireann in that regard. They implemented the regulation providing for abolition of restrictions on the use of cable television networks in the liberalised telecommunications sector.

Telecommunications network could  established under licence pursuant to the 1983 legislation. The regulations were enforced by the Dir of telecommunications regulation. Further general exemptions from statutory monopoly were granted in respect of services or  networks provided and maintained by a person or entity for its own use not being a service to any other person or a broadcasting station licensed under or  cable television systems licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act.

Telecom was obliged to maintain a system to ensure separation of financial accounts in relation to its activity as provider of telecommunication services and as provider of cable television network.

Phasing Out Monopoly

The Irish government was granted an additional period in 1996 up to 1 January 2000 for  the abolition of Telecom Eireann’s exclusive rights in the area of voice telephony and network infrastructure instead of 1 January 1998 as required under the directives. It was authorised to postpone to  1 January 1999 removal of restrictions on interconnection of mobile telecommunication networks with foreign networks subject to conditions.

It was permitted to postpone until 1 July 1997 removal of restrictions on the provision of already liberalised telecommunication services networks established by the communication service provider infrastructures provided by third parties and the sharing of networks and other facilities and sites.

European Communities (Interconnection In Telecommunications) (Amendment) Regulations 1999 provide for number portability from 1 January 2000. It also included other measures to facilitate competition and consumer choice in mobile telephony.

The European Communities (Telecommunications Services Monitoring) Regulations, 1997 give power to the director to monitor communication links to ensure that service providers comply with the terms of their licence.

General provisions in the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983 in relation to privacy of messages apply to other operators.


European Communities (Telecommunications Terminal Equipment) Regulations 1997, implement EU legislation on harmonisation of laws relation to telecommunications terminal equipment. It  provided for mutual recognition of conformity standards. Terminal equipment is equipment which may be connected to a public telecommunications network.

In accordance with EU’s legislation, it provided that telecommunications terminal equipment may not be marketed unless

  • accompanied by a declaration made by a manufacturer or a supplier, set out in a prescribed form,
  • accompanied by an operating manual, and
  • affixed with the CE mark and a specified symbol in such a way that the symbol follows the CE mark and visually forms an integral part of the total marking.

Standards bodies may be designated to carry out certification checks and surveillance. Standard regulatory powers and offences were provided for.

Regulation of Telecom

European Communities (Application of Open Network Provision to Voice Telephony (Regulations) 1997 gave effect to EU directives  on the harmonisation of conditions of access to and use of fixed public telecommunication networks and telephony services. It obliged Telecom Eireann to provide network and voice telephony services. It must ensure that users obtain a connection to a network subject to the regulations and are entitled to connect new terminal equipment on their premises subject to the principle of non-discrimination.

Telecom was obliged to publish and provide access to certain information. It is obliged to meet certain targets for supply time and quality of service indicators as provided for under the EU directives. It was obliged to provide services within a reasonable time.

Changes in service or termination of services may not take place other than after consultation with users and after appropriate notice to be specified by the regulator has been given. Users had a right to appeal to the regulator in the event of a dispute regarding certain such matters. Telecom Eireann is obliged to provide pulsation refunds if the relevant service quality levels contract were not met.

The regulator could  require Telecom to change contract conditions of service including provisions as the limitation of liability. Contracts must provide for procedures for dispute settlement. The former statutory limit on liability was repealed.

Telecom Eireann was to meet reasonable request for connection with fixed other telecommunication networks by the telecommunication organsations providing public telecommunication networks in other states whose names are notified to the commission by national regulators as authorised . Telecom Eireann was to meet reasonable request for interconnection with fixed public telecommunications by operators in the state. Principles of non-discrimination apply in relation to interconnectivity.

The tariffs for fixed public telecommunications network and voice telephony service were to follow principles of transparency and costs as provided for in the EU legislation.

Telecom was to establish targets for moving towards itemised billing as a facility available to customers as requested.

In providing telephone directories in printed or electronic form Telecom Eireann was to ensure that they were updated annually subject to data protection legislation. Customers have the right to opt in or opt out to public directories. Directory information on voice telephony services were to be made available on request on terms which are published to be fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.

Telecom Eireann was obliged insofar as practicable to provide public payphones to satisfy reasonable demands throughout the State. Facilities must be made available to make emergency calls from telephones.

Telecom Eireann was obliged to comply with obligations and conditions specified by the regulator in relation to disabled persons and persons with special needs in the use of telephone services.

Numbers were to be allocated only in accordance with the national numbering scheme. Conditions may be attached to allocation of numbers. The procedures for allocation of numbers were to be transparent equitable,timely and undertaken in a non-discriminatory manner. The telephone national numbering scheme must be published.

The right of access to public telecommunication networks might be restricted where there was no compliance with the essential requirements in relation to terminal equipment. Procedures must be followed in the case of refusal.

Telecom Eireann was not to refuse access to public telecommunication networks or interrupt or reduce availability of telephone services because of alleged non-compliance with conditions of use other than in accordance with conditions and procedures set by the regulator. The terms on which service might be interrupted on the basis of infringement were set by the regulator. Fair procedures were acquired in relation to disputes. The regulator had power to power to determine disputes.

Procedures apply for disconnection of service for non-payment of bills. Warning is generally required. Telecom Eireann is obliged to provide services in accordance with international technical standards adopted at EU level.

Generally in relation to disputes with individuals and businesses with Telecom Eireann could be referred to the regulator upon appeal. The regulator established procedures for the termination of disputes.

Sale of Telecom

The 1996 legislation provided for the sale of shares in Telecom Eireann. This was done initially for the purpose of an alliance with an international operator.

The government agreed to the sale of  a stake  in Telecom to  consortium of Dutch and Swedish telecom providers who acquired a 20% stake with an option for a furthers 15% stake. The legislation also provided for an employee shareholding scheme. Workers participated Telecom Eireann under the Worker Participation State Enterprise Acts. The worker director provisions were disapplied. Employee directors were appointed for a temporary period.

The Postal and Telecommunication Services (Amendment) Act 1999 provided for the flotation of  Telecom Eireann plc on the Irish stock exchange. This effected privatisation of the state telephone company Telecom Eireann.

It was the first and to date,  last major privatisation of a public utility asset. It was hoped that the discount on flotation would encourage wide ownership of the shares. The flotation happened towards the tail end of “dotcom” bubble. The share price rose briefly and quickly fell back below flotation/issue price from which it never recovered.


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