Is Eir about to quit the National Broadband Plan?

31 Jan 2018884 Views

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Eir offices in Dublin. Image: Luke Maxwell

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Eir speculation comes just months after Siro departed the National Broadband Plan.

There are signals that incumbent operator Eir is about to officially leave the National Broadband Plan, the procurement process to connect 540,000 homes and businesses to the internet.

Reports are surfacing that the operator is poised to bow out just months after Siro – the joint venture of Vodafone and ESB  – exited the process.

The decision by Eir will be a huge blow to the prestige of the project, which could have been a flagship for resolving European broadband connectivity problems in rural areas.

Cutting the cord?

The EU-backed plan – costed at up to €1bn – proposed to deliver 30Mbps broadband speeds to about 540,000 premises, and now has only one bidder remaining: Enet.

The rumoured move is all the more surprising considering the Irish Government last year signed a deal with Eir to fast-track 300,000 homes in the original intervention area as part of a €200m investment.

It comes just a month after a consortium led by French billionaire Xavier Niel was confirmed as the new majority owner of Eir. That consortium – led by NJJ Telecom Europe, the private investment firm of Niel, alongside his French operator Iliad – last month agreed to acquire a majority stake in Eir at an enterprise value of around €3.5bn.

It had been suggested at the time that, under Niel, Eir would be primarily interested in serving broadband to urban areas rather than rural areas.

Eir currently has 1.7m premises passed by fibre and was working towards a target of 1.9m premises by the end of 2018.

Where that plan stands currently is anyone’s guess.

“No comment,” was the reply from an Eir spokesperson.

“No comment,” was also the reply from a spokesperson for the Department of Communications who said that a statement on the matter is forthcoming this afternoon (31 January).

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com