Ireland needs to deepen its fibre infrastructure

9 Jul 2009

The CEO of E-net, the firm that is now responsible for Ireland’s Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 94 towns, says that the 60 additional MANs will complete a significant part of the NGN jigsaw but more work needs to be done.

Conal Henry, chief executive of E-net told that backhaul continues to be a major focus and that the sooner the Government’s ‘One Stop Shop’ for tying together stranded fibre assets is in place the better.

“On top of the 27 MANs we manage under Phase 1 and the 60 new MANs in 66 towns, Ireland will need to continue deepen fibre infrastructure to as many homes and businesses as possible. Phase 2 actually will put Ireland ahead of many European nations with similar initiatives and it completes a huge portion of the jigsaw. But we can’t stop there.

“We need to look at using pre-existing telecoms and other access technologies. The MANs project is a good platform but it is not the total solution.

“If you compare the MANs project with similar initiatives in Spain, France, Germany and the UK, it stands shoulder to shoulder and is even ahead in a number of instances. In terms of publicly funded networks that encourage operators to invest, we score highly with 32 operators compared with the UK, France and Germany where this infrastructure is being used by small local operators.”

The winning of the second phase of the MANs project will enable E-net to recruit at least 10 new staff bringing its headcount to 40 people.

Henry explained that every one of the 60 MANs have been built and the plan is to have all of them operationally live within a year’s time.

He said that backhaul – the ability to connect the MANs to a national network – will be a problem insofar as at present only half of the 60 new MANs are capable of being connected to a backhaul network.

E-net has backhaul agreements in place with BT and ESB Telecoms. Henry says that the newly arrived Project Kelvin transatlantic fibre infrastructure will connect towns in Donegal and Monaghan to backhaul.

He said that work of the Department of Communications’ One Stop Shop will hopefully complete the jigsaw. “While we all want maximum coverage for Ireland, what is critical is the One Stop Shop makes State fibre available as quickly as possible. We have already noticed a quickening in pace, particularly in relation to the ducting under roads.

“I think the situation of the One Stop Shop will move more rapidly in the next six to 12 months. All of this is a matter of degrees, but it is important the policy is implemented.”

The onset of the MANs is having important economic impacts on the towns where they are located and as more get lit the availability of fibre will help create new jobs and help local businesses.

According to E-net the first 27 towns to get MANs grew their share of foreign direct investment (FDI) from 24pc to 90pc in the first four years.

Speaking with, ComReg commissioner Alex Chisholm said cooperation amongst all providers in utilising next generation infrastructure is necessary. “If an NGN is to succeed in Ireland, the operators of that network should be committed to getting as much throughput as possible and that means a broad-minded approach to wholesale access. Utilisation in terms of homes and businesses will be vital.”

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years