Eir strikes deal to connect 300,000 rural homes with fibre broadband

4 Apr 2017199 Shares

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Eir agrees to invest an additional €200m to upgrade 890 communities to fibre broadband.

Incumbent operator Eir has made a commitment with the Government to connect 300,000 homes in rural Ireland with fibre broadband on a commercial basis.

The move addresses the disputed premises that Eir said it could serve, but that had been included in the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

‘The agreement that I have signed with Eir means one house every minute, of every working day, will get fibre-to-the-door, high-speed broadband over the next 90 weeks’
– DENIS NAUGHTEN

As a result, Eir will have a fibre broadband footprint of 1.9m premises in Ireland by the end of 2018, including the 300,000 homes agreed with the Government.

Redrawing of the National Broadband Plan

The NBP, with a cost of up to €1bn, originally sought to serve more than 900,000 premises and more than 1.8m citizens on the wrong side of the digital divide.

The move reduces the number of homes in the NBP, requiring intervention in around 542,000 premises, including an additional 84,500 identified for the Department of Communications’ Broadband Map.

The number in the redrawn intervention area now includes 990,000 citizens, or 21pc of the national population, and 381,000 members of the labour force.

A spokesman for Eir told Siliconrepublic.com that the agreement with the Government clarifies and removes any overlap between the NBP and Eir’s own roll-out plan.

He said that Eir intends to compete with Siro and Enet – which are also shortlisted for the NBP – for all or a share of the remaining 542,000 premises.

The question now is: will the NBP will go ahead as planned in June? And when will the last of the remaining premises be brought into the 21st century?

According to Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, the three consortia shortlisted in the procurement process can provide tenders with certainty.

“The agreement that I have signed with Eir means one house every minute, of every working day, will get fibre-to-the-door, high-speed broadband over the next 90 weeks,” Naughten said.

“300,000 more rural premises will have access to high-speed, quality broadband – that’s an extra 500 houses every day. Over the last four years, commercial operators have invested more than €2.5bn upgrading telecoms networks and services,” he added.

Direct benefit for rural Ireland

For its part, Eir said that it has so far invested close to €450m in its next-generation access network as part of an overall €1.5bn plan.

‘Today’s announcement is a historic milestone in the development of Ireland’s key digital infrastructure, with enormous potential for job creation, social inclusion and rural regeneration’
– RICHARD MOAT

It said the additional 300,000 homes will cost an extra €200m.

Eir described the investment as a direct benefit for rural Ireland, which will see the company upgrade infrastructure in 890 communities throughout the country.

This will require the erection of pole and fibre cable infrastructure along 23,000km of Irish roads – equivalent to half the circumference of Earth.

The roll-out will be completed by the end of 2018, two years ahead of Eir’s own deadline of 2020.

“By the end of next year, over 300,000 additional homes, farms and businesses that currently only have access to basic broadband, or indeed no broadband at all, will have access to the fastest broadband speeds in Ireland, on par with the best broadband speeds available right throughout Europe,” said Richard Moat, CEO of Eir.

“This will aid rural communities right across the country, removing a key barrier that has prevented people from remaining in rural Ireland, building their lives and businesses.

“We remain fully supportive of the Government’s strategy and the Minister’s personal commitment to ensure that all premises in Ireland will be supplied with high-speed broadband, either by commercial operators such as ourselves, or through the Government’s National Broadband Plan, as quickly as possible.

“Today’s announcement is a historic milestone in the development of Ireland’s key digital infrastructure, with enormous potential for job creation, social inclusion and rural regeneration.”

Eir said to check www.fibrerollout.ie to see if a particular premises prequalifies for commercial roll-out.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com