Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary 3 Ireland has been named the preferred tenderer for the government contract to complete the rollout of broadband in Ireland.
The National Broadband Scheme was devised following the collapse of the Group Broadband Scheme two years ago, and aims to bring broadband to rural and low populated areas deemed commercially unviable by most telecom operators.
Following a competitive tendering process, originally four consortia were shortlisted to complete the scheme, including Eircom, BT, Hutchison 3G Ireland and an IFA/Motorola consortium.
However, BT and the IFA/Motorola consortium dropped out of the race, and in recent weeks it was down to Eircom and 3.
Following 3’s appointment as preferred tenderer today, work will be finalised on the contract in the coming weeks, with a final announcement expected upon completion of the contract matters next month.
“It is imperative that we have universal broadband coverage in Ireland, for foreign investment, for competitiveness and for our own businesses and householders,” said the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD.
3 has over 300,000 customers, including 105,000 mobile broadband users. The company has so far invested €530m in its network and employs 200 people.
“We have fought hard to bring Ireland up to speed in the broadband league tables by bringing increased competition to Ireland and implementing the best broadband technologies available,” 3 Ireland’s chief executive Robert Finnegan said.
“We are delighted to be named ‘preferred tenderer’ and we look forward to working with the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources to better connect rural Ireland.
“The country’s digital infrastructure is key to making Ireland competitive and reviving the country’s economy and 3 will play an important part in delivering this,” Finnegan added.
Eircom, which says its broadband programme is on track to cover 900 exchanges – 96pc of working telephone lines in Ireland by next year – said it was extremely disappointed in the Government’s decision.
“Our comprehensive bid was supported by the leading vendors and suppliers on the market and was backed by the most significant regional interest groups,” a spokesman said.
“Our bid would have delivered a level of broadband coverage which exceeded that required by the Government – both in terms of geographic reach and available speeds.
“Eircom remains committed to delivering broadband to as many parts of the country as possible and will continue to support the Government in whatever way we can to deliver the ‘broadband Ireland’ project,” he said.
By John Kennedy