BT network to be extended to the Republic

27 Oct 2005

BT is to extend its new multibillion euro global network to the Irish Republic. The announcement was made by BT Ireland CEO Danny McLaughlin at the Telecoms and Internet Federation (TIF) annual conference in Dublin yesterday.

BT’s construction of a new global internet protocol network – dubbed by the company as ’21CN’ (21st Century Network) – will cost £13bn sterling up to 2010, making it one of the largest and most expensive network installation/upgrade projects taking place in the world today.

McLaughlin said the decision to roll out the network to the Republic was logical given that it was already in place in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The network would be “an enabler of the digital networked economy and help underpin Ireland’s ability to compete on the world stage,” he said. He gave no firm indication of when the project would begin but said it would happen as quickly as possible.

Scottish-born McLaughlin, who replaced Bill Murphy as head of BT Ireland four months ago and is also managing director of BT Northern Ireland, said that BT was phasing out its old PSTN or traditional copper voice network in favour of the new technology that would allow its customers to create and run a plethora of sophisticated data services.

Weighing into the debate on broadband, he said telcos could either embrace it and put it at the centre of their business or cut back on investments and try to sweat their existing assets. “In BT, we saw broadband as something that could only destroy our revenues. We were wrong. Four years on, broadband is our core business.”

Noting its low position in the global broadband league and the current uptake of only 10pc of the population, he concluded Ireland was still “not really serious” about broadband and painted a bleak picture of a country marginalised in the new global information economy unless it embraced broadband.

“We need to switch quickly,” he warned. “Otherwise the long-term consequences will be catastrophic for Ireland.”

By Brian Skelly