Category: Broadband

Irish govt appoints "Internet Czar"

I read in the irish Independent this morning that the Irish Govt has appointed an “Internet Czar” – someone to keep us all safe on the Internet.

John Laffan is due to take up his role as the director of the Office for Internet Safety (OIS) next month.

Justice Minister Brian Lenihan said that Mr Laffan would help to develop programmes and policies designed to make the internet a safer place.

Phew! I feel so relieved now.

In fairness to the Government, people often criticise them for a lack of foresight and for not planning ahead. In this case, with Ireland having one of the most expensive, slowest and lowest uptake of broadband in the OECD the government is obviously planning for a time when the Irish people have Internet access.

Good on them, I say. But wait, this is yet another position with no authority:

Although it will have no power to fine internet service providers, Mr Lenihan said that he would not hesitate to provide the OIS with “legislative teeth” if necessary.

Why bother create the position, if it is a powerless one? What a waste. Again.

Never mind the health system, or the total lack of any investment in ICT in education (or the total lack of investment in education), as long as Bertie stops the tribunals asking searching questions and we have an Internet Czar, all will be well in the world.

With any luck they will soon appoint a Book Czar to make books safe for us too. Some people like that awful Roddy Doyle use terrible language in their books. And what about a People Czar? Don’t the government know that all over the world there are people walking around completely naked under their clothes?

We need to keep the children safe.

What cretin came up with this silly idea?

BT Broadband users can be hacked!

James Galvin posted a couple of weeks ago about a recently published exploit which made hacking Eircom’s wireless routers trivial.

As Eircom are the largest provider of residential broadband in Ireland, this is potentially a big deal. As Joe Drumgoole commented at the time:

they have inadvertently created Ireland’s largest free WIFI network. Good man Eircom!

However, BT is now facing an even more serious issue on its wireless routers according to an article in the Register today. At least in Eircom’s case, the vulnerability only exposed the WEP key, allowing use of the wifi on the router.

In the case of the BT router, the Reg is reporting that

a remote attacker can quietly gain full administrator control over a device simply by social engineering a user into visiting a website. The exploit makes it possible to steal a user’s WPA key, listen in on VoIP calls, steal VoIP credentials or change DNS settings so users are silently redirected to fraudulent websites

This is a far more serious an issue then the Eircom one and the number of routers this affected is likely to be orders of magnitude greater.

The one saving grace is that the hack hasn’t been published in the wild, as was the case with Eircom. Yet.

De Valera's isolationist policies rise again

There have been a couple of posts recently on the sad state of broadband in Ireland – specifically these posts from Sean McNamara and Damien .

I’m on a 3mb dsl connection. And that is one of the faster connections it is possible to get in this country! That costs me €40 per month plus 21% vat.

In the report that Sean links to we see that

The cost [of broadband] in all of the top 10 countries averages less than $5 per month/megabit.

$5 per mb per month – that’s less than €4 per mb per month. I’m paying over €13 per mb per month (not including vat) and even then, I can only get 3mb. If I want any more than that I need all six numbers in the lotto.

Ireland is an island nation – it looks like the current administration are determined to see that we remain cut off from the rest of the world, the modern equivalent of De Valera‘s isolationist policies.

3 Ireland's Mobile broadband offering – slow and unstable?

Getting broadband from your mobile operator is a very tempting proposition as I have mentioned previously. It allows you to finally get rid of that landline you so rarely use (and pay a fortune in monthly charges for) and mobile broadband means you can take it with you when you travel – no more looking for wifi hotspots.

However, reading FrankP’s experience with 3 Ireland’s mobile broadband offering I think I’ll hold off on going the 3 Ireland route for mobile broadband for now.

I spoke to Frank this morning after reading his post and I asked him about the speed of the connection – he said:

1288 kbps right now

yesterday it was 504 kbps when I checked

10th it was 612 kbps / 1141

9th 334 kbps

8th from 30 to 70kbps

This is quite a bit different from the promise on the 3 Ireland Broadband page:

speeds of up to 3.6Mbps – smooth surfing guaranteed

Is Frank’s experience with 3 Ireland unique or have others had similar issues?

Paul Giltenan of Choice Communications has promised me a review O2 broadband modem to trial so I’m looking forward to seeing how that works. I wonder are O2 customers having similar problems – they are, after all, using the same Huawei usb modem.

And if this is a more general problem than 3 Ireland Mobile, should Comreg be getting involved? Of course we all know the telcos find Comreg about as intimidating as Bambi.

Irish mobile broadband becomes more compelling

Several of the Irish mobile operators now have mobile broadband offerings and the offerings are getting more and more compelling!

Irish Mobile Broadband offerings

All the operators are using the same Huawei external USB mobile broadband modem. O2 claim that unlike their competitors, their version will have drivers for Windows Vista when they launch.

The data for O2 is speculative as their offering won’t be officially launched until July 2nd but their roadmap, according to O2 spokesman Kevin Heffernan, is to ramp from an initial 3.6Mbps to 7.2Mbps by year end and then 14.4Mbps next year! Also, initially they were to roll out with a 6Gb download cap but it is now looking increasingly likely that this will be revised up to 10Gb.

O2 are saying that they are positioning this to compete with similar offerings from Vodafone and 3Ireland but if I compare these figures to my current Eircom DSL broadband connection, it is: 3mb, €40 per month (ex VAT), and a 40GB download cap. The biggest difference between the two is the download but I don’t download that much so that shouldn’t be an issue.

As I see it, the O2 mobile broadband product could easily start to replace DSL connections either for home users or for Solo Soho setups. The mobile broadband obviously has the advantage of being mobile so you can take it on the train, for example and work away while traveling! And with Ireland having the most expensive line rentals in Europe (€9 per month more than the EU average), this is one more nail in the coffin of fixed lines here.

O2 are also rolling out an EDGE network which should be fully rolled out by q1 2008 according to Heffernan. This means wherever the 3.6Gb HSDPA (or 7.2 or 14.4) is unavailable, the modem should fall back to EDGE’s semi-respectable 256kb. This is at least twice as fast as GPRS.

Finally, starting in 2008, O2 will start on building a HSDUA network – this will give upload speeds of 14.4 Mbps eventually!

Are DSL’s days numbered in Ireland

Broadband digital divide – Cork vs. Dublin

Further to my last post on the pitiful state of broadband in Ireland – believe it or not, it gets worse!

The wholesale cost of broadband is roughly three times more expensive in Cork than it is in Dublin.

Wholesale bandwidth in Dublin is available for €25.00 per MBit/month. In itself a ridiculously expensive price.

However, backhaul costs to Dublin from Cork for a 50MBit pipe would add another €50 per MBit/month. So wholesale bandwidth in Cork ends up being €75.00 per MBit/month or put another way it is three times dearer in Cork than Dublin!

How is Cork supposed to compete with Dublin on a cost basis when the basic infrastructure is prohibitively expensive?

What would have happened to Cork 100 years ago if the telephone service was three times more expensive in Cork as opposed to Dublin?

Appalling state of broadband in Ireland

Forfás* released a damning report on the state of broadband in Ireland on 30th November 2006. Remember, Forfás is an Irish governmental agency operating under the auspices of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The report is 34 pages in PDF format. Let me summarise some of the main findings for you:

The report found that:

In 2005, the European Commission estimated that DSL coverage in Ireland based on population stood at 72%, making it the second lowest of the EU-15 countries. Rural DSL availability was just 38% of the population

In this graph you can see the poor uptake of broadband in Ireland – Ireland (in green near the bottom) ranks 21st out of 24 EU countries surveyed, slightly ahead of Slovakia and Cyprus.

Broadband penetration by household

When you look at the quality of the broadband offerings in comparison to other countries, you can see how far behind Ireland is:
Quality of Service

One of the principal reasons for this, according to the Forfás report is the unbelievably slow rate of Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) in Ireland as the incumbent telecom (Eircom) aided and abetted by its partner Comreg the does everything in its power to thwart any attempts to unbundle.

Check out the graph to see how far behind we are internationally in terms of LLU.
Local Loop Unbundling

Noel Dempsey has been the minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources happily overseeing Ireland’s lack of broadband and all that this means for our competitiveness internationally.

Eircom’s desire to stop LLU, I can understand, but you have to wonder what are the motivations of Comreg and Noel Dempsey for perpetuating this state of affairs. They are supposed to be working in the interests of the Irish people. I can only guess what promises have been made to whom.

*Forfás is:

Ireland’s national policy and advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation

Iranian telecoms regulator should hire Irish broadband suppression expertise

However bad things are in Ireland in relation to our broadband speeds – things are even worse in Iran. According to the Guardian, the government there has ordered all ISPs to limit Internet speeds to 128kb. This is in an effort to:

make it more difficult to download foreign music, films and television programmes, which the authorities blame for undermining Islamic culture among the younger generation. It will also impede efforts by political opposition groups to organise by uploading information on to the net.

Iran also has some of the most stringent filters blocking Internet sites into the country – almost as bad as China’s infamous Great Firewall of China.

Having said that, I know several people in Ireland who’d love if they could get speeds of 128kb ‘cos they are stuck with 44kb dialup.

If Iran is really serious about reducing the speeds of access for its citizens, I suggest they hire in the expertise of Ireland’s Minister for Broadband Suppression and Ireland’s Telecom’s Regulator Isolde Goggin who have successfully managed to keep Ireland at the bottom of the international broadband leagues for years now

100mb broadband for €25 per month

I wrote a post not so long ago about the state of broadband worldwide and how poorly served we are in Ireland. I showed a table of broadband speeds and prices worldwide – based on the table the average broadband speed was 18mb for 44 US$ per month.

However, Lupan, a Japanese reader commented on the post correcting the figure for Japan. His broadband is 100mb for the equivalent of €25 per month!

Incredible, my own connection is 3mb for €50 per month and that’s good compared to many in Ireland.

If i lived in Japan I could get 33 times the speed for half the price I pay in Ireland.


Noel Dempsey, our minister for broadband suppression should take up thumb twiddling or some other pastime equally suited to his (in)abilities.

Noel Dempsey – Ireland's minister for broadband suppression

This is the face in incompetence in Ireland. This is the face of Ireland’s Minister for broadband suppression.

Ireland's minister for broadband suppression

This is the face of the minister of communications in Ireland who has presided over Ireland’s languishing:

14th in the EU15 for broadband penetration. That’s the same place we were in 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 etc. etc.

Congratulations minister. Under-achievers everywhere bow down before you in awe.

[Update] – Just came across this great site about the minister.