By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – Moving quickly to be in a position to take advantage of the end of the phone monopoly later this year, a major new Irish-British-American consortium will announce its plans and its name this week.
The new group involves the state electricity company the ESB, the giant British Telecom and the U.S. financial services company AIG.
The joint venture will use a relatively unknown ESB direct-telephone network involving microwave dishes and fiber optics cables as the basis for their operation.
The network was set up for strategic reasons to provide the ESB with a completely independent communications network.
The _150 million development will create about 300 jobs. The EU cleared the project last week under European merger regulations.
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Last year the ESB set up a separate company, ESB International Telecoms, 60 percent owned by the ESB and 40 percent held by the Fortune 500 company AIG.
This company has a 50 percent stake with BT in the new venture. Investment may be increased because of the acceleration of the deregulation date which Public Enterprise Minister Mary O’Rourke has brought back from January 2000.
George McGrath of British Telecom, the joint venture projects manager, said a lot of hard work had gone into the consortium. He said that in view of the Minister’s announcement they would be reviewing their investment profile.
Because of the ESB’s existing network the joint venture should be able to “hit the road much faster than others” and will make full use of BT’s global connections when offering a service to business and residential customers.
“There is a great buzz with the project team at the moment and next week we will change from being a project team to being a company,” he said.