Can Ireland get up to speed on broadband?

4 Sep 2008

Created by former broadcast engineers, AirSpeed has deployed a nationwide wireless network that helps businesses like RTÉ and Dairygold in broadband-poor areas. The company is headed by Liam O’Kelly (pictured).

What is Ireland’s real challenge in terms of getting its broadband problems resolved?

There’s a challenge regarding capacity with wired services that affects the incumbent as well as smaller companies using products like DSL.

There are still large parts of the country where the infrastructure is lacking; that’s where Ireland’s challenge lies.

What role do radio technologies have to play in this?

We’re focused on businesses in urban and rural areas that need high-speed connectivity but are hampered by infrastructure deficits.

Certainly for businesses in remote locations that are trading globally and need to be connected, there is an acute challenge.

Radio offers quick turnaround, is highly reliable and is equal to, if not better than, fibre-optic cables. There are a lot of businesses that will pick fibre over wired, but radio is still not a silver bullet.

There are several wireless providers in the market; can they all survive?

There has to be a market consolidation. Effectively Ireland has had a number of wireless DSL providers enter the market over the past

few years.

The question is, are these profitable companies? Will they all do a technology refresh in the face of new technologies like WiMax? I doubt it.

I predict a major consolidation in the wireless broadband space over the coming year or two.

How does AirSpeed’s service work and what companies are using it?

We provide leased lines via wireless pretty much on a national scale using licensed frequencies and microwave technology.

Our origins are in the broadcasting world; we have installed systems at RTÉ and we did the turnkey for TG4.

We reached a point where we were able to see how radio technology was evolving and decided we could do something for the business world.

We can provide businesses with point to point or point to multipoint. Typically businesses would use bandwidth of up to 10Mbps but one customer of ours can get 800Mbps between two sites, and a pharmaceutical company that is also a customer can get 155Mbps between sites in west Cork and Wicklow.

What are AirSpeed’s expansion plans?

We have doubled every year since 2003 and recently we’ve bought a new building in CityWest in Dublin. In the Irish market of today, DSL is no longer a suitable service for business customers.

We have obtained a number of 26Ghz licences from ComReg and, as well as specific rural projects like those for RTÉ, Dairygold and the Ritz Carlton in Powerscourt, we also have licences for services in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway.

We currently have 35 people working for us and it is our intention to grow this number as the business expands.

By John Kennedy

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