Professional engineers’ body Engineers Ireland has urged the Irish Government to act in the next 12 months to speed up the National Broadband Plan rollout and has also called on the commercial operators to step up to the plate, especially in terms of 4G coverage.
In its Review of Infrastructure in Ireland report, Engineers Ireland said that it is imperative that, in the next 12 months, the National Broadband Plan intervention is awarded to contractors and a national deployment plan is revealed.
It called on commercial operators to continue the rollout of 4G mobile networks nationally but also protect the quality of traditional mobile services like voice.
Operators were also called on to reduce service costs when rates and speeds are not equal in urban and rural areas.
It pointed to a recent report by the European Commission that ranked Ireland eighth in the EU for a range of digital integration issues.
Slow rates of growth in this area placed Ireland in a cluster of countries deemed to be “lagging ahead.”
‘High-quality infrastructure is an important element of a modern society and economy’
– CAROLINE SPILLANE, ENGINEERS IRELAND
In the mobile category, Ireland is seventh out of the EU-28.
But while €2bn-plus has been invested in the network infrastructure by industry over the last four years and 70pc of premises will have access to high-speed broadband by the middle of this year, Ireland is still flagging.
In 2014, Ireland had the seventh-fastest broadband speed in the world, ahead of the UK and Germany, but dropped to 12th in Europe in 2015 and 23rd in the world.
In terms of the remaining 30pc of homes targeted for intervention under the National Broadband Plan, Engineers Ireland said that the plan will be the cornerstone to ensuring rural Ireland is brought into the digital age.
In tandem with this, mobile networks will need to be enhanced in terms of mobile broadband and voice.
It said additional spectrum is likely to be made available in the near term and this needs to be harnessed wisely to improve the performance and capacity of the networks.
Engineers Ireland said that the continued rollout of 4G networks will be crucial to the overall national infrastructure.
“High-quality infrastructure is an important element of a modern society and economy,” said Engineers Ireland director-general Caroline Spillane.
“It strengthens economic growth through enhancing efficiency, productivity and competitiveness.
“It also underpins social cohesion through providing vital facilities for citizens,” Spillane said.
Engineers Ireland also warned that the Government’s current capital plan Building on Recovery, which commits €27bn between 2016 and 2021, falls short of addressing the current infrastructure gap that covers everything from energy to broadband and transport.
“We strongly urge the new Government to initiate the mid-term review provided for in Building on Recovery and commit to increased funding that is both adequate to meet the investment level required and provides certainty to the public, investors and industry.”
Rural Ireland image via Shutterstock