The Friday Interview: Fran Rooney, Ice Broadband

6 Apr 2007

This week’s interviewee is Fran Rooney (pictured), former chief executive of FAI and Baltimore Technologies and chairman of broadband company Ice Broadband.

You are chairman of a broadband company run by your daughter, Yvonne. Why do you see an opportunity in broadband?

The broadband situation in Ireland has been badly handled. A report last week from the EU puts Ireland as one of the worst performers in broadband rollout in Europe.

This is a shame because I believe broadband and the access to fast data speeds anywhere in Ireland will be one of the key cornerstones of economic development.

We developed a good telecoms infrastructure in the Eighties that, allied with good education decisions in the Sixties, paved the way for the Celtic Tiger. Now we are being complacent.

Ice Broadband is planning to cover 95pc of the Midlands with broadband. How will this be done?

At present we’ve rolled out to 30 locations including towns like Swords, and counties Meath, Kildare, Westmeath, Laois, Carlow, Tipperary and Limerick.
We are very much on track and this week are rolling out initiatives that will give consumers and businesses over 3Mbps broadband and local and international calls for just under €50 a month.

One of your initiatives centres on the failed Group Broadband Scheme (GBS). How will you succeed where others have failed?

The GBS was ineffective because the process was slow and bureaucratic. The community had to apply to the Government for grants.

The Ice Group Broadband Scheme will work with the communities that want broadband from beginning to end.

One of the first communities to use this will be the Rivermeath estate in St Margaret’s in Dublin where 140 customers who have been demanding broadband will get it. There are plans to provide another 400 homes in the area with broadband.

How does Ice’s technology work?

It is primarily wireless. We use technology from an Israeli company called Alvarion and also Motorola’s canopy technology.

One base station, the size of an A4 sheet of paper, can extend from Castleknock to cover Finglas and Phibsborough.

Since leaving the FAI, what business and personal interests occupy your time?

Apart from Ice Broadband I sit on the board of the People in Need trust. The rest of my time is spent focusing on the entrance exams for the Bar in August. It is now my second year at King’s Inns.

Sports-wise, just last year I completed a black belt in kick-boxing. I’ve been doing kick-boxing for eight years and teach it on Saturday afternoons.

By John Kennedy

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