The Friday interview: Mark Kellett, Magnet

14 Dec 2007

Broadband provider Magnet has a €70m capital expenditure plan for Ireland and last week unveiled a 12Mbps business service. Mark Kellett (pictured) is the company’s new CEO.

Your predecessor Vern Kennedy famously said ‘If Irish telecoms was a horse, it would have been taken out and shot years ago.’ Do you agree?
Well, in terms of market dynamics, there aren’t any. The market has a strong incumbent that has no incentive to move the ball of change and connectivity on. Until now arguments have been around speed and penetration and we all harp on about ‘almost’ meeting EU standards. It’s not good enough.

Do you think Ireland is being well served with broadband?
No I don’t. I call it ‘fraudband’. In many cases it’s not real broadband or speed. If you think about the throttle of the Westlink Toll Bridge on the M50, the same can be said of the broadband market. The Irish Government seems to accept fraudband in the same way it accepts the M50 debacle. At a commercial level this doesn’t make sense. Fraudband is no better than standard dial-up. Companies are hiding the real scenario. Some say you can get 1Mbps for 1 cent for example. But are you truly getting 1Mbps? Or are you sharing that with 48 other people? If you are, then that’s fraud.

Is it acceptable for Ireland to have a digital divide between the digital haves and the have-nots?
Ireland isn’t going to win itself a place at the world table of the knowledge economy by having hotspots of connectivity. You need a population with access to high-speed broadband and voice products. It’s not acceptable from a Government perspective. Our manufacturing industry has suffered substantially. We’re going to continue to see a leakage of jobs to lower-cost markets. How we differentiate ourselves is not just about building better road networks but also deploying a critically high-speed connectivity network.

What does Magnet intend to do that’s different?
We’ve launched a 12Mbps product for business. There are very few players in the market willing to trundle up connectivity. We’re meeting a tipping point where the questions are moving from connectivity and availability of fraudband to getting an experience of what the web can truly deliver. The average consumer does not realise that what they are getting right now is nothing more than standard dial-up. That will change as people get more experience of Web 2.0 services and will demand more. And not just consumers, but business people too.

What are your investment plans for the Irish market?
We’ve already invested €45m and we’re in the middle of a further €25m investment. A significant proportion has gone into infrastructure. We have our own network, fibre rings and a fibre-to-the-office product. It is the type of investment that will show benefit as the market moves away from the old experience.

Does the Irish market lack vision about the new services coming down the tracks?
It lacks vision about what Web 2.0 services and beyond will bring. We will see convergence between set-top boxes on your TV and online media. The level and pace of that convergence is going to increase dramatically.

By John Kennedy

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