Ireland to deregulate telecomms by 2000

The Irish are expected to be granted a later deadline by which to deregulate their telecomms market.

European competition commissioner Karel Van Miert has presented a plan to the Irish authorities for delaying Ireland's deregulation of its telecommunications services until 2000, according to a commission official who asked not to be identified.

If all goes smoothly, the European Union will approve this delay from the original January 1, 1998 deadline for telecom liberalisation during its weekly meeting next week, the official says. European Commission approval will also be required.

Van Miert's offer stipulates that in order to win commission approval for the delay, the Irish must authorise the use of alternative telecomms networks for all telecomms services -- except voice and fax -- by July 1, 1997, the official says.

European Union rules approved in 1994 require member states to end restrictions on telecomm services by 1998. But recognising that the less developed telecomms markets in Ireland, Greece and Portugal would have trouble successfully competing in an open market by 1998, the EU granted these countries a delay of up to five years for telecomms deregulation.

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