After three years of debate, the joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone Ireland, called SIRO, aims to bring 1Gbps internet to homes and businesses across the country in the coming years.
First proposed back in 2012, the €450m deal will be a first for Europe as, rather than creating an entirely new fibre broadband network, the ESB, with the help of Vodafone Ireland, will use the existing electric cabling infrastructure as the basis for its high-speed network.
Cavan town was lucky enough to be chosen as the test-bed for SIRO’s first fibre network cables and, since it began last month, 60pc of the residents in the town who have access to speeds as high as 1Gbps say that it would encourage them to start businesses with the technology.
But what exactly are we to expect from SIRO and what will be offered?
1. 50 towns to receive SIRO in first phase by 2018
50 towns across Ireland will be the lucky few to have access to SIRO’s broadband speeds as part of the first phase, which the venture expects will be begin operations by 2018, with expectations that the first stages of construction will begin in the latter part of 2016.
The emphasis on who will receive SIRO has been carefully chosen, with the emphasis being placed on connecting the smaller, rural towns of Ireland and bridging the digital divide that exists between the major cities, like Dublin with its vast number of tech businesses, and rural areas.
2. Why SIRO?
Those who know about astronomy will be aware that Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky and, given that this is fibre-optic broadband, it makes obvious sense to name it so.
The first 10 towns to become ‘fibrehoods’ are:
Cavan, Dundalk, Westport, Castlebar, Sligo, Carrigaline, Tralee, Navan, Letterkenny and Wexford.
However, SIRO has said that there will be an as-yet unknown number of ‘passed homes’, which means that, despite being in one of these towns, you could just miss out, which is unfortunate.
To see the next 40, SIRO has thankfully created a map so have a look and see whether your town is one of the lucky few.
3. It will be fast, very fast
While the Government has set in place its plans to have every person in Ireland connected to a minimum broadband speed of 30Mbps by 2020, SIRO’s fibre broadband service will range from a minimum of 200Mbps, to as high as 1,000Mbps.
When completed this will bring it on a par with many of the internet hotspots of the world, including Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong.
The key factor in its speed will be the fact its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) rather than working off a module that spreads the internet speed between an area.
4. We should be up and running within three years
While it is literally a ‘pipe dream’, it’s certainly no pipe dream going by SIRO’s timeline. According to the venture and Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White TD, construction will start as early as late 2016, depending on whether they get all the legal paperwork out of the way.
The deadline for when the 50 towns receive SIRO fibre broadband is pencilled in for the end of 2018, just two years after the proposed start of the project.
5. Very little impact on construction and installation
As one Twitter user asked the panel at today’s launch: “Would it be piped through the ESB electric cabling?” Thankfully, no, as SIRO has the good fortune to be able to install the fibre-optic network in tandem with the existing electric cabling.
This will speed up the entire process enormously and will also help bring the costs down considerably.
It’s then a case of linking each house in an area to a direct fibre line, much like a home has a direct line for electricity or water supply.
60 staff will be hired to run SIRO’s operations and, while construction and on-the-ground work will be limited, 200 jobs need to be created for its rollout.
6. Pricing and how you actually get it yet to be elaborated upon
While Vodafone are the telecoms network behind SIRO, it won’t be able to hold a monopoly on the fibre network as once it is officially launched, it will be open to tender for other operators to come in and ‘rent’ the service.
So expect varied prices from different providers when it eventually launches in three years’ time.
7. Fibre influencers impressed by SIRO
Among the guests at the launch were some of Europe’s and the US’s biggest fibre influences, who have fought to make DTTH a reality in their respective lands, including former mayor of Kansas, Joe Reardon, who was heralded with making Kansas the first city in the US and the world to get Google Fiber, the company’s own scheme of FTTH it is rolling out gradually acros the US.
Likewise, from a European perspective, Karin Ahl, former president of FTTH Europe and current chair of the Swedish Fibre Alliance, said to the audience in the Marker Hotel in Dublin at the SIRO launch that Ireland is now one of the countries to look up to in Europe for integration of FTTH with a public/private partnership deal.
From her experiences, bringing FTTH to rural communities on the continent has been sadly lacking, but initiatives such as this are helping considerably.
See their thoughts and more from our highlights reel of today’s events.