Eir to press ahead with plan to connect 300k homes to fibre

22 Dec 2015

By 2020 every home and business in Ireland will have access to high-speed broadband

Eir confirmed today (22 December) it will be pressing ahead with its own plan to add 300,000 premises to fibre, bringing to 1.9m the number of homes and businesses that will have fibre broadband by 2020.

The news comes just as the Government’s National Broadband Plan to connect 750,000 people in areas up until now deemed not commercially viable gets in motion.

This morning the procurement process for the National Broadband Plan began on eTenders and on the Journal of the European Union with plans to award final contracts later next year.

Future Human

The plan – priced at between €300m to €500m – is being spearheaded by Communications Minister Alex White TD and will fund operators to compete to deliver a guaranteed minimum of 30Mbps download speeds and 6Mbps upload speeds with 99.95pc uptime.

So far, €275m in funding has been approved by the EU and cabinet to support what Minister White has described as the largest and most significant broadband intervention in the history of the Irish state, covering 96pc of Ireland’s land mass, 1.8m citizens, 100,000km of road and 750,000 postal addresses.

The plan aims to have all homes and businesses connected to a minimum of 30Mbps download speeds by 2020.

Meanwhile, Eir has been gaining momentum with its own plan to roll out broadband and has so far passed 1.35m homes and businesses with high-speed broadband.

The company has upgraded its plans from an initial 1.2m to 1.6m premises and now intends to reach 1.9m premises across Ireland by 2020, reducing the potential size of the intervention area (IA) targeted in the National Broadband Plan to 450,000 homes and businesses.

‘There is a real opportunity here. Take-up for high-speed broadband is evolving. Customers want faster speeds and much more so than when we started this’

Eir said today that it welcomes the National Broadband Plan and said that it will engage with the process to see that the 2020 target of 750,000 premises is met.

“Eir remains fully committed to its own commercial investment plans to provide high-speed broadband to 1.9m premises by 2020,” Eir said in a statement.

Broadband momentum

A spokesman for Eir told Siliconrepublic.com that the National Broadband Plan contains a mechanism to reduce the intervention area where and when investments have been made.

He said that Eir now has achieved enough momentum and expertise to make it commercially viable to connect a further 300,000 homes and buisnesses to fibre broadband.

The spokesman added that Eir intends to bid for both lots of the National Broadband Plan. Other bidders are likely to include the SIRO joint venture involving ESB and Vodafone, as well as BT, Virgin Media, E-net, Gigabit Fibre, Three, Imagine and Axione, a French company that has won 16 similar projects in France

“There is no customer that is going to lose out here,” the Eir spokseman continued.“We are committed to rolling out broadband and we are going as fast as we can.”

He added: “The intervention areas will require a minimum of 30Mbps, but we think we can go past that and in some cases we can already provide fibre to the home at up to 1Gbps for 30,000 homes.

“We have proven that we can roll out fibre to the cabinet, fibre to the home and we have the right technology and processes to make sure people get an improved service.

“Obviously, we would have liked the intervention area to have been smaller, but we are not taking our ball and walking off the pitch.

“We are committing to our investment. Our recent financial performance shows that open access to our fibre network for other operators to deliver services is also growing Eir’s business.

“There is a real opportunity here. Take-up for high-speed broadband is evolving. Customers want faster speeds and much more so than when we started this.

“We see this ourselves. We started with a target of 1.2m homes, we are at 1.35m homes and businesses now and next year we will have reached 1.6m premises and 1.9m by 2020.

“The National Broadband Plan contains a mechanism for continued investment to be accommodated for, “ the spokesman said.

Ireland map image via Shutterstock

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