Ireland fails to make progress in global broadband rankings

11 Jul 2018

Slieve League landscape, Donegal, Ireland. Image: travelamos/Shutterstock

Inertia on National Broadband Plan masks gains made in cities and towns.

Ireland remains static in 36th place in the global broadband league tables, behind 26 other European countries.

The global rankings indicate that Singapore has the fastest speeds out of 163m broadband speed tests across 200 countries.

Ireland holds the same position as it did in 2017, and this puts it in the bottom third of EU member states. However, the mean download speed of 18.2Mbps in 2018 is an improvement on the 13.9Mbps speed recorded in 2017.

The findings showed that the time it takes to download a typical 5GB HD movie in Ireland was 37 minutes and 28 seconds.

The data was collected by M-Lab, which is a partnership between Google Open Source Research and Princeton University’s PlantLab. The results were compiled by UK broadband comparison site Cable.

Our closest neighbour, the UK, slipped from 31st to 35th place in the global broadband league tables, with average speeds of 18.5Mbps. In the UK, it takes 36 minutes and 46 seconds to download a 5GB HD movie.

France has an average download speed of 24.2Mbps, up from 13Mbps in 2017. It has moved up 14 places in the rankings to 23rd.

Singapore, taking first place with an average speed of 60.3Mbps, is up from 55.1Mbps last year. Here, it takes just 11 minutes to download a 5GB HD movie.

The global average speed has risen from 7.4Mbps to 9.1Mbps.

How did it come to this?

Ireland in global broadband rankings, number 36

Image: Cable

While Ireland is above the global average and just outside the top third of countries in the world for broadband, the country continues its tradition of barely keeping pace rather than setting global standards.

Why is this? Well, Ireland is hurtling towards its fibre future with gusto, with players such as Eir, Siro and Virgin Media deploying fibre with staggering speed. This includes speeds up to 1Gbps and beyond. However, this is mainly happening in cities and towns.

Nothing is happening in the countryside where the National Broadband Plan (NBP) – the Government’s ambitious scheme to deploy fibre to about 542,000 homes and businesses, or close to 1m people not served by telecoms companies – is still waiting to begin.

Even though the plan has received European Investment Bank backing of €500m with a further €275m approved under State aid to 2020, nothing has happened and it could be late this year before shovels are in the ground.

The departure of both Siro and Eir from the procurement process in recent months, leaving just the Enet-SSE consortium in the race, was hardly inspiring and we wait with bated breath for contracts to be signed in the autumn.

So basically, what is happening is that inertia in the countryside is overshadowing vast gains in urban areas.

If the NBP finally begins – six years after it was first unveiled – it will be interesting to see how Ireland looks in the global rankings two years from now.

We can only hope.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years