Up to 100,000 new digital jobs could be created in Ireland’s digital economy, and broadband investment holds the key, says Eircom’s managing director of Wholesale Carolan Lennon.
In recent weeks, Eircom has accelerated and expanded its plan to bring fibre-based broadband to as many parts of Ireland as possible, increasing the footprint to 1.6m homes from an initial 1.4m homes by 2016.
Earlier this week, the operator reached its goal of deploying fibre-based broadband to 1m homes and premises.
“We announced a few years ago that we were going to spend €1.5bn on infrastructure investment in Ireland and over €400m of that was going to be on building out a high-speed fibre network. Three years into that we’ve made a lot of progress.
“Just last Monday we passed our 1 millionth home and premises. That’s 50pc of the homes and businesses in Ireland today, which we are serving with speeds between 70Mbps and 100Mbps.”
To illustrate what’s possible, Lennon said that with a 100Mbps connection it would be possible in theory to download the 6m books in the Trinity College Dublin library or download a 700MB video in less than a minute.
Lennon said Eircom has accelerated its initial target of 1.4m homes by the end of 2016 to achieve this by the end of 2015 instead.
“A big point is we are going to parts of Ireland where there is no high-speed fibre network. We are already the largest high-speed fibre network in the country but by the time we are finished we are going to be more than twice the size of everybody else.
“The rollout at the moment is targeting communities of less than 1,000 population. We are really bringing the kind of services we need for the four corners of Ireland.”
In 21st-century Ireland, infrastructure such as fibre networks is becoming as critical to economic prosperity as roads.
Lennon pointed to research commissioned by the Department of Communications in 2013 that estimated there is the opportunity to create 100,000 jobs in the digital economy, out of which 50,000 people would be directly employed in digital companies.
“We all know in our heart and soul how important this is. There could be a hugely positive knock-on effect for the economy,” she said.
Lennon pointed out that in 2007, the digital economy was 2.7pc of Ireland’s GDP. This grew to 4.4pc by 2012, valued at around €7.1bn in trade.
Advanced digital economies, such as the UK, are already crediting the digital economy with 6pc of GDP.
“Anything that drives jobs in our economy is hugely important,” she said, and added that only 25pc of Irish SMEs are online.
“Irish consumers spent €3.7bn online last year but 70pc of that went out of the country. There are massive missed opportunities.
“By 2016, we want to have 2,000 more businesses online. Eircom’s network investment is vast and should help with this ambition. It is about having the right ambitions for the Irish economy.”