10 powerful leaders answering the call for growth in Irish comms

2 Dec 2015

Though a small country, Ireland’s comms infrastructure has not yet met its population’s needs. But with 10 leaders in the industry training their focus on growth, the state of Irish networks appears to be in good hands.

Ireland's Sci-Tech 100

Continuing Ireland’s Sci-Tech 100 – Siliconrepublic.com’s who’s who of the leaders in Irish science and technology – we turn to those responsible for keeping us all connected. Without these leaders driving comms development across the country, the infrastructure vital to a thriving sci-tech industry would never come to pass.

1. Sean Atkinson

Sean Atkinson, SIRO (comms leaders)

Sean Atkinson (far right), CEO of SIRO, pictured with councillors from Dundalk Municipal District and Minister Gerald Nash, TD

Sean Atkinson is CEO of SIRO, the €450m joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone Ireland. SIRO will use the existing electric cabling infrastructure as the basis for its high-speed network, giving 50 towns across Ireland access to 1Gbps broadband speeds as part of the first phase.

Atkinson has held a number of senior management roles in Ireland and overseas. He joined ESB in 1991 and was instrumental in the development of ESB International’s strategy, having held key roles such as head of international business development at ESB International’s UK investment business. Most recently, he was director of ESB’s fibre project.

2. Robert Finnegan

Robert Finnegan, CEO, Three Ireland

Robert Finnegan, CEO, Three Ireland

Robert Finnegan took on the role of Three Ireland CEO in December 2005, at that point already an 11-year veteran of parent company Hutchison Whampoa.

Finnegan had spent a number of years as CEO of Hutchison Whampoa beverage division Watson’s, overseeing a 3,000-employee company, having previously held other senior finance positions.

Now a leader in Irish telecommunications, Finnegan has led Three through a period of major change and growth, including its purchase of the Irish arm of O2 last year, which established the brand as Ireland’s second-largest mobile operator holding around 35pc of the market share.

3. Tony Hanway

Tony Hanway, Virgin Media (comms leaders)

Tony Hanway, CEO, Virgin Media

Earlier this year, Tony Hanway was appointed CEO of Virgin Media Ireland. His pedigree as a comms leader, however, is not so recently attained.

Formerly holding senior positions at O2 Ireland (Telefónica) and AOL, Hanway has been instrumental in comms development in Ireland and abroad for much of the last 10 years. He even served as chair of the Irish Telecom and Internet Federation (TIF), the representative body for the Irish comms sector.

Since Hanway became CEO, Virgin Media Ireland has updated its TV service to appeal to the streaming mentality that’s captured viewers worldwide, allowing subscribers to access seven days’ worth of scheduling on demand and allowing those who tune into a programme late to play from the start.

4. Carolan Lennon

Carolan Lennon, managing director, Open Eir

Carolan Lennon, managing director, Open Eir

Carolan Lennon started on the ground floor of mobile telecoms with a role at Eircel and, later, became consumer director at Vodafone. She is now managing director of Open Eir, the wholesale wing of Eir, which is currently undertaking one of the largest private-sector rollouts of high-speed broadband in Europe. By 2020, Lennon says, Ireland will enjoy the fastest broadband in the world, even in isolated rural communities that previously would have had very little coverage.

With Lennon at the helm, Open Eir is set to invest €400m in fibre over the next five years, in an effort to future-proof the national broadband service.

Under her leadership, Open Eir has partnered with the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), and strives to create an environment in which all employees are comfortable. In this way, says Lennon, the company can craft an organisation that is truly representative of its customer base.

5. Richard Moat

Richard Moat, CEO, Eir

Richard Moat, CEO, Eir

Richard Moat has decades of experience in the communications industry. Prior to joining Eir (then Eircom) as CFO in 2012, Moat held various leadership roles with Orange throughout Europe and Asia, and he was also managing director at T-Mobile in the UK.

He was appointed CEO of Eir in September last year and is leading the company through a time of change, as it has not only rebranded but it is attempting to solidify its position as the leading quad-play provider in Ireland. All going well, it seems, as Eir recently reported its second consecutive quarter of revenue growth.

6. Sean O’Donnell

Sean O’Donnell, Aurora Telecom (Bord Gáis)

Sean O’Donnell, general manager, Aurora Telecom (Bord Gáis). Image via Sean O’Donnell/LinkedIn

Aurora Telecom is an arm of Bord Gáis that specialises in dark fibre services, with Sean O’Donnell acting as general manager of the company for nearly nine years. Providing dark fibre to carriers and service providers, O’Donnell’s operation also offers the service to large corporate, public sector and financial services organisations.

Prior to becoming GM, O’Donnell was a senior product manager at Aurora Telecom, with experience in the UK as well.

7. Anne O’Leary

Anne O'Leary (Irish Comms Leaders)

Torlach Denihan, director of TIF, pictured with Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland and incoming chair of TIF, and Minister Alex White, TD. Photo by Gary O’Neill

Anne O’Leary has been CEO of Vodafone Ireland for nearly three years, in which time she has overseen some significant expansions in the company’s Irish operations. Last July, for example, O’Leary was on hand to announce a new €60m Carrickmines plan, which followed a €2m IoT investment in Cork.

An advocate of spreading broadband into rural communities, O’Leary recently spoke of her frustration that a lack of joined-up thinking is hampering progress in this regard.

O’Leary warned that unless planning bottlenecks are removed, efforts to make the country one of the most digitised nations in the world will be stymied – and Vodafone’s SIRO partnership with ESB appears to be one route around these issues.

8. Colm O’Neill

Colm O’Neill, CEO, BT Ireland

Colm O’Neill, CEO, BT Ireland

Having joined BT Ireland in 2009 as its managing director for business, Colm O’Neill quickly rose to the position of CEO in 2011. O’Neill has overseen the growth of British company’s presence in Ireland having most recently posted a 14pc rise in revenues.

O’Neill has been quite vocal on the need to nurture the next generation of people in STEM as BT’s representative at the annual BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

He has also spoken to Siliconrepublic.com on increasing the number of women in senior positions within STEM sectors, as well as within his own company which has a board made up of over 30pc women.

9. Colm Piercy

Colm Piercy, CEO, Viatel

Colm Piercy, CEO, Viatel

In recent weeks, global bandwidth provider Zayo Group acquired Piercy’s pan-European telecoms firm Viatel for €95m in an all-cash deal. Viatel, which also owns and operates the Digiweb consumer broadband brand in Ireland, has more than 150 points of presence across western Europe, with direct reach into cities such as London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris and Zurich.

Last August, Viatel embarked on a major €125m expansion plan, including jobs and infrastructure investment across western Europe.

A graduate of the University of Limerick, Colm Piercy founded Digiweb Group in 2001 and grew it into the pan-European telecoms group we know today.

10. Darragh Richardson

Darragh Richardson, managing director, Agile Networks

Darragh Richardson, managing director, Agile Networks

It has been just over four years since Darragh Richardson took up the position as Agile Networks’ managing director but, in that time, the IT networks company has grown substantially from a team of just four staff to 17, with 1.3m end users on over 1,200 websites.

Richardson came to Agile through the 2011 buyout of telecoms company Telindus’ Irish operations in Belfast, where he had been working as the country manager for over six years.

In terms of industry recognition, 2015 has been a special year for Richardson, who was shortlisted in the emerging category for this year’s EY Entrepreneur of The Year Award.

Main telecommunications image by kirill_makarov via Shutterstock