Broadband more important than batteries this digital Christmas as Irish splurge €852m online

18 Dec 2015

Enjoy the digital delights of the season sensibly folks, but do spare a thought for the disconnected too. Ho, ho, ho!

Apparently broadband is more important to Irish consumers this Christmas than batteries, according to a survey. Well, if that’s the case, spare a thought for the 300,000 homes and 100,000 businesses eagerly waiting to join the 21st century

If, like me, you know lots of people who still can’t get broadband and it’s nearly 2016, then cheerful claims that broadband is more important than batteries only serve to make my blood boil. Because it is actually mostly true, broadband is in fact more important than batteries – some jobs won’t hire people unless they meet a certain speed criteria at home, for example, no one sends a CV in the post these days, and who the hell actually goes to the Motor Tax office anymore?

Let’s break it down a level further for Christmas. Imagine if Santa delivered an Xbox One, a PlayStation 4 or an iPod to a child who was very good this year but the broadband is no good at all, in fact very naughty, then the device isn’t worth the cardboard box it came in. Even if it was nicely wrapped by elves.

Will Christmas be a disaster without the internet?

Either way, there are lots of other things that can go wrong on Christmas Day, like burning the turkey or granny losing her teeth down the couch after one too many Baileys, for example. But it’s fair to say Christmas 2015 will be a digital one and, without the internet, it could be a disaster.

A survey of 1,000 Irish consumers commissioned by Pure Telecom found that we’ll spend €852m on Christmas gifts online this year, while 50pc of people think Christmas Day would be a disaster without internet. A further 54pc will be contacting loved ones abroad on Christmas Day, most likely through services like Skype, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.

Some 86pc of people said they will purchase at least one present online, while the average person expects to buy six presents online. In total, Irish shoppers will spend €852m online this festive season, averaging €247 per person.

Internet-connected devices will be included in almost half of households’ Christmas gifts, too. Pure Telecom found that almost half (48pc) of people expect that there will be at least one internet-connected device under their tree this Christmas.

One-third expect their households to be unwrapping one or two internet-connected devices on the 25 December, while a sizeable 15pc expect that figure will reach three or more. Almost one third (32pc) of parents said they will be give at least one of their children an internet-connected device for Christmas.

And let’s not forget the movies and the digital binge-fest that Christmas 2015 will inspire. More than one in five (21pc) will rely on the internet to watch their festive flicks, with 14pc saying they will use a streaming service such as Netflix, while 7pc will download their movies from the likes of Apple or Amazon.

The survey also found that women are more likely to say they couldn’t survive Christmas without broadband, with 52pc claiming Christmas would be a disaster without it, compared to 48pc of men.

“With fast, reliable broadband connection, kids and grown-ups can test out their Christmas presents straight away, talk to their loved ones half the world away and be guaranteed uninterrupted movie time,” said Paul Connell, director of Pure Telecom.

I’d hate to be a Grinch, Paul, but while I am sure your fibre broadband is excellent, spare a thought for those whose homes can’t get adequate broadband this Christmas.

Never mind Minecraft, the Yule season could be an emotional minefield in many Irish households if there is no connectivity for these super-duper digital presents.

And what if the Wi-Fi goes down, will couples actually have to talk to each other?

Spare a thought for the disconnected this Christmas

According to figures from the CSO, 85pc of Irish homes are now online in some fashion. Earlier figures from ComReg for the third quarter of 2015 found that approximately 54.2pc of all fixed broadband subscriptions were equal to or greater than 30Mbps, which is close enough to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stipulation earlier this year that anything below 25Mbps can no longer be defined as broadband.

Which means about half of homes in Ireland do not meet the international standard for broadband.

Don’t get me wrong, things are getting better and 2016 could be the year that Ireland finally arrests the plodding pace of broadband rollout since DSL was first introduced in 2001. Yes, folks, broadband has been in Ireland 14 years now and still the Government needs to embark on an intervention strategy entitled the National Broadband Plan, which, priced at between €300m and €500m, aims to connect 300,000 homes and 100,000 businesses on the wrong side of the digital divide with at least 30Mbps broadband by 2020.

Some groups like wireless ISPs will try to say there is no need for a market intervention. They are wrong.

Eir, the telecoms operator formerly known as Eircom, has stepped up to the plate and under the steady leadership of CEO Richard Moat is back in the black and is powering ahead, with ambitions to reach 1.9m homes with fibre broadband by 2020.

Things are going so well that Eir believes it can connect 300,000 premises in intervention areas with fibre, which has called into question the future of the National Broadband Plan.

The Department of Communications told yesterday, however, that this development is welcome and will not derail the National Broadband Plan, with procurement set to begin on Tuesday for the 2016 National Broadband Plan to roll out.

Whatever happens, I would be especially impressed to find out if Eir and the Government were actually working in concert with each other to meet an objective of BROADBAND FOR EVERYONE by 2020.

Now I’d definitely raise a festive glass to that.

Digital Santa image via Shutterstock

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