Communications Minister Dermot Ahern TD has switched on the first of the 19 metropolitan area networks (MANs) that form the nucleus of the Government’s broadband strategy. The first MAN – and the largest – was switched on in Cork this morning and represents a €12m investment.
The 60km fibre optic network serves all the main industrial estates, commercial buildings, offices, and shopping areas right across Cork City. It has been designed to cater for the many institutional bodies within the city such as University College Cork, the Southern Health Board, Cork University Hospital, Cork Institute of Technology, a number of schools, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, as well as private technology parks and industrial areas.
Minister Ahern said: “The Cork ring has been completed on time and within budget and is the first to be commissioned. It has also accumulated a number of other firsts.
“It is the first all-optical deployment of commercial traffic on an enterprise metro network from Ireland, and it is the first deployment of high speed optical data networks using Resilient Packet Rings (RPR) on any Metropolitan Area Network in Europe.
“In coming weeks we will see the establishment of the Management Services Entity that will operate all 19 MANs on an open-access basis. In the meantime Cork City MAN is open for business, and has already taken on its first customer, Smart Telecom.”
The Minister unveiled a special study, the Cork Information Technology and Telecommunications Study, by PA Management Consultants, which examined the present position of Cork City within the IT and communications sector, both nationally and internationally.
The PA report benchmarks Cork City against leading cities in Europe on internet connectivity and commercial and domestic broadband usage. The report defines and focuses the city’s role and opportunities in e-commerce development.
Ahern said the report will serve as a valuable reference source for planners, businesses and individuals seeking to derive maximum benefit from the new network. “I’m sure that this connectivity will be a huge asset to Cork as European City of Culture in 2005.”
The Minister said major strides had been made in the past year in relation to Internet access. “During the year I issued a set of policy directions to ComReg which led to the introduction of Flat Rate Internet Access, or FRIACO, in June last. Latest figures show that 50,000 people have availed of FRIACO so far. Following the price reduction on DSL there has been a tremendous surge in the DSL market, with over 32,000 users now online.
“In December, the Government approved significant exchequer investment in infrastructure that will extend broadband connectivity to over 90 additional towns, and Group Broadband Schemes that will enable smaller communities to pool their demands and, with funding assistance from Government, obtain high-speed connectivity from a range of service providers in cooperation with the telecoms industry here.”
Minister Ahern concluded: “The other recent initiative was the agreement on high-speed connectivity on the networks operated by ESB and Esat BT that will lead to a reduction in the cost of backhaul to as little as one-eighth of what it had been. This investment by the Government is expected to result in increased inward investment in Cork city and its environs, particularly in the high technology sector.”
The Cork MAN was grant-aided by the Department under its allocation from the National Development Plan 2000-2006, which is co-funded by the EU under the European Regional Development Fund for the broadband programme.
By John Kennedy