The 17th annual TIF Conference will take place at Dublin Castle on Tuesday, 12 October, and will feature Ireland’s most senior telecoms executives debating a number of key issues, from next-generation networks, who will build these networks and the role green tech will play in transforming the telecoms industry.
Every year, the Irish telecoms industry spends around €600m investing in upgrading infrastructure. As we move towards 2011 – in the midst of perhaps the greatest recession in living memory – the telecoms industry is aware of the need to continue to invest in new technologies from DSL and cable broadband to HSPA+ and WiMax.
“Telecoms is going to be one of the key infrastructures to underpin the growth of the next economy in Ireland and globally,” explained TIF director Tommy McCabe.
“We’re going to look at the key areas in the telecoms sector that would help the Irish economy pull out of this recession, namely broadband. We’re all familiar with broadband, we’ve made good strides on that in the last few years and 60pc of the population now have access to it. That is growing rapidly at this stage and there are good platform or choices – cable or satellite, DSL or mobile. The challenge is getting to next-generation broadband.”
Headlining the event will be the European Commissioner driving the EU’s Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes who has set a target for 2020 to have internet speeds of 30Mbps or higher for all European citizens, with half of European households subscribing to connections of 100Mbps or higher. Half of European productivity growth over the past 15 years has already been driven by ICT technology and according to Kroes this trend is likely to accelerate.
Representing Ireland’s position on the digital economy will be Communications Minister Eamon Ryan who believes a green economy and a digital economy go hand in hand. Ryan is the driving force behind initiatives like the Exemplar Network, the National Broadband Scheme and recently passed legislation ensuring the National Roads Authority provide telcos with access to ducting beneath Ireland’s motorways.
Key international speakers invited include Cisco CEO John Chambers (to be confirmed), the chief strategy officer of Liberty Global (UPC’s parent company) Shane O’Neill, and Alcatel-Lucent CEO, Ben Verwaayen.
Addressing the local challenge at the 17th annual TIF conference will be senior local telecoms executives including Eircom CEO Paul Donovan, Vodafone strategy director and vice chair of TIF Gerry Fahy and TIF chairman and head of wholesale at Eircom John McKeon.
The key to Ireland’s economic recovery will be enabling Irish SMEs to compete on a global stage and it is fitting that Enterprise Ireland CEO Frank Ryan will also be presenting at the event.
I put it to McCabe that a key area of debate will be the construction of the next-generation networks, where we will need to enable the nation to trade digitally long into the future.
“Payment for the next-generation networks needs to be looked at and what’s the fair balance between providing the infrastructure and paying for it. Research on our behalf by Analysys Mason estimates such a network would cost €2.5bn and we’ll look at the issues in that report at the conference.
“Another area that will be debated will be green technology. We’re all aware of carbon emissions and the need to cut back on CO2 emissions. In telecoms a green agenda can contribute towards that.”
Future role of telecoms industry
McCabe said that Ireland has made strides in terms of improving access to broadband and now more than 60pc of the population can access the internet. “For those who can’t get it, it is no doubt very frustrating but that’s being tackled by the Government in the NBS and we’re looking to ensure that everybody can get a minimum standard of broadband connectivity.
“In recent months, UPC said it was upgrading its speeds to 150Mbps and Eircom likewise are doing trials in Dublin and Wexford to give equivalent speeds.
“And then there’s the mobile technology that will give speeds of up to 14.4Mbps and that will keep growing as technology improves. We can expect higher speeds to be available and the market is looking for the higher speeds and the apps that suit. Mobile has become an indispensable piece of equipment that everybody must have and more and more people are accessing online via mobile devices like iPad and that will continue.”
I ask McCabe if he believes competition alone will drive investment or should Government intervention of some kind be applied? “I think competition alone will not drive investment, competition is key, but what is also needed is a policy in place so that investment is encouraged by the environment.”
He concluded: “There needs to be dialogue between the Government, the regulator and the telecoms companies and I think the good will is there all round. The challenge is to realise this into a next-generation infrastructure that delivers what the market wants: one that delivers a return on investment for the investors and competition to take place.”
TIF director Tommy McCabe