Metropolitan area network (MAN) operator E-net is to invest €2.5m to create three new fibre towns – Ardee, Kilkenny and Loughrea – whereby ‘fibre to the business’ networks will reach SMEs in these towns.
The move follows the deployment of fibre into Claremorris that will result in every SME business in the town being capable of receiving access speeds of 250Mbps.
E-net is the firm tasked with managing the 94 towns and cities around Ireland encircled with MANs invested in by the State.
Bandwidth will be delivered directly to the businesses via E-net’s Fibre Direct service, which E-net says will provide speeds faster than existing copper networks.
Last month E-net produced research claiming that the availability of MANs are credited with attracting 85pc of IDA investments in Cork between 2004 and 2013.
The new investment was welcomed by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte: “It follows their creation of Ireland’s first fibre town in Claremorris and shows real commitment to developing industry-strength broadband for businesses.
“Fibre infrastructure and high speed broadband are essential supports for digital entrepreneurship, national competitiveness and job creation.”
The proving ground
Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com E-net chief executive Conal Henry explained that the networks will be deployed in the three towns on the provisio that there is sufficient engagement from local businesses.
“The challenge is the business case. This is essentially a pilot and we intend to build more of these networks in more the 94 MAN towns once we are comfortable with how it works and we can prove the business case to our investors,” Henry explained.
He said that the towns were selected on the basis of local activism for quality broadband in their area. “We will go where we think the business community is sufficiently engaged.”
He said he hoped that the investments in Claremorris, Loughrea, Kilkenny and Ardee would serve to encourage local chambers and business leaders in other MAN-connected towns around Ireland to engage with E-net.
Henry agreed that in line with the Irish Government’s €512m plan to bring fibre to rural villages and towns the current projects would serve as a proving ground that would potentially provide E-net with vital expertise and experience in order to bid for the tenders when they arise.
“When you consider the various fibre investments taking place in terms of the MANs and various operators like ESB and Vodafone’s joint venture it puts Ireland in a very interesting position.
“The one thing you don’t want to see happen is overlapping infrastructure where everybody is building against each other, that would be a nightmare.
“That shouldn’t happen because we are in a situation now where there is the availability of investment, there is the obvious business case and Government funding is being finally directed to solve the problem.”