Eir to invest €1bn over five years to expand fibre and mobile network

13 Nov 2018

Eir technicians John O’Carroll and Noel McMahon. Image: Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography

Eir reports that 1.8m premises in Ireland now passed with high-speed fibre services and that 70pc of its broadband base are using fibre.

Eir has revealed it plans to invest €1bn over the next five years to expand its national fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network and upgrade its mobile network to 5G.

CEO Carolan Lennon disclosed the investment plan in the telco’s first-quarter earnings. The plan comes a day after the company revealed (12 November) it is spending €150m to bring 4G coverage to 99pc of Ireland’s geography as well as 5G to Irish cities in 2019. Announcing the mobile plan yesterday, Lennon said that an additional 1.4m homes and businesses will be connected to FTTH services in the coming years.

‘We are busy preparing our large-scale capital investment programme, which will involve rolling out super-fast fibre-to-the-home broadband to 1.4m premises in urban and suburban Ireland’

The €1bn plan can be interpreted as fitting in with the modus operandi of new owner Xavier Niel’s Iliad and NJJ Telecom, which has ambitions for Eir to be the leading urban fibre and nationwide mobile carrier on the island of Ireland. Through his internet service provider Free in France and most recently through Iliad’s move into Italy’s 4G mobile market by sparking a competitive price war, Niel has form in this space.

The timing of the 4G, 5G and FTTH investment plans could not be more interesting given the recent chaos into which the National Broadband Plan (NBP) has fallen. The future of the NBP now rests on a final report by Taoiseach-appointed auditor Peter Smyth.

For the first quarter, Eir reported revenues of €312m, down €4m (1pc) year on year. Operating costs were reduced by €13m (12pc) to €108m, and cash on balance sheet was €170m, up €44m year on year. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were up by €13m (11pc) year on year.

As recently reported, Eir plans to insource hundreds of customer care and sales jobs this year, resulting in 750 jobs at centres in Sligo, Cork and Limerick. It will also hire IT developers and 50 new Open Eir apprentices. Overall, the hiring plans will encompass up to 1,000 people in total.

Lighting up Irish telecoms

Woman with black hair and green dress holds an image of Ireland with the words 99pc 4G coverage.

Eir CEO Carolan Lennon. Image: Fennells

In terms of Eir’s fibre optic roll-out, the company said that 1.8m fibre premises have been passed with high-speed fibre technology, including 228,000 premises passed as part of the FTTH rural roll-out. The company has committed to reaching 1.9m premises by the end of 2018 and reaching 330,000 rural premises by June next year.

In all, Eir said that 78pc of premises on its network are now passed with fibre technology.

It said that it has enabled 651,000 actual fibre connections, accounting for 70pc of its overall broadband base (925,000 customers, up by 22,000, or 2pc, year on year) and that 30pc of customers are now on triple- or quad-play bundles of broadband, phone, mobile and TV services.

Eir reported that it has 78,0000 Eir Vision customers, up 4,000 (5pc) yaer on year and that it has almost 270,000 Eir Sport users across all platforms.

In terms of mobile, it has more than 1m mobile customers and 52pc of these customers are on post-pay contracts, up 3pc year on year. Eir said that a quarter of the households it serves include mobile as part of their bundle.

“In the last three months, we have made some significant announcements relating to the future strategy of Eir,” Lennon said.

“We are busy preparing our large-scale capital investment programme, which will involve rolling out super-fast fibre-to-the-home broadband to 1.4m premises in urban and suburban Ireland, as well as increasing our mobile network by 25pc, with better coverage, traffic capacity and network resilience.

“Along with our network investments, we are investing in our people, bringing in-house hundreds of customer care staff and sales representatives to enhance our customer experience, as well as hiring IT developers and 50 new Open Eir apprentices,” Lennon continued.

“With our voluntary redundancy programme largely complete, the insourcing of staff ongoing and the large network investments rolling out soon, Eir will continue on its journey to become the best provider of broadband and mobile services in Ireland.”

Updated, 8.53am, 12 November 2018: This article was updated to clarify that Eir’s operating costs for Q1 were €108m (not €13m) and that Eir aims to have passed 330,000 rural premises with fibre by June (not March) next year.

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