Eircom CEO Paul Donovan is the new chairman of TIF

13 Oct 2010

Eircom CEO Paul Donovan has been confirmed as the new chairman of the IBEC-based Telecoms and Internet Federation. He replaces former Eircom head of wholesale John McKeown, who has taken up a position in the public sector.

Donovan was announced as the new chairman at TIF’s 17th annual conference at Dublin Castle yesterday, by TIF director Tommy McCabe.

McCabe said that amidst the worst recession in the history of the State, where GDP had fallen significantly, there is a clear need to look to the future. “There are some areas where we will be able to get out of recession by focusing on growth in enterprise and growth in jobs, but in particular one of the key drivers for growth is the telecoms and internet sector.”

McCabe continued: “Numerous Government reports highlight that a state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure is essential for the success of the smart economy. However, the investment case is currently difficult to justify.

Building a national NGN

“We must work to deploy high-speed broadband networks in all parts of Ireland, not just in pockets of high-density urban areas. However, a recent TIF report estimated that a national NGN broadband network would cost around €2.5bn to build and would take 20 years of revenue just to repay this cost. To justify the business case, the industry must work together; public policy and regulation must be supportive; and the value distribution/net neutrality debate needs to be addressed. While resolving these issues is not sufficient on its own, it is a necessary first step.

“It is essential that the Government and the regulator find a way to reduce the costs and risks associated with such a huge investment. We are confident that such an approach will enable Ireland to secure a world-class next-generation network.”

Accepting the role of chairman, Donovan said Ireland faces an unprecedented set of challenges, economically and technologically.

“This is the first time a CEO has taken on the role and sets a tradition for the future. I want to be very clear, I have no desire to put my company first. But over the next couple of months I will be listening carefully to the whole of industry to refine our agenda and hopefully present a united front.

“I am genuinely all ears. A recent report on the internet value chain showed how it is set to reach US$1.6trn in revenues in 2010 – led by players like Google, YouTube, Amazon and Facebook – and clearly the delivery of content is a key component.

“It is clear that content providers stand to benefit from NGNs as and when they materialise, the key question is whether content providers can help de-risk NGN investment and create more value for the industry as a whole,” Donovan said.

Paul Donovan’s background

After running the marketing departments of consumer brands like Mars, Coca Cola and Apple in the early 1990s, Donovan entered the telecoms business via BT, where he ran its business marketing division. He then moved to mobile operator One2One (now T-Mobile) where he is credited with transforming it from the slowest-growing network operator in the UK to the fastest-growing network. An opportunity arose to become chief commercial officer of Australian mobile and cable TV company Optis.

Before Optis was sold to Singtel, Donovan took up a position as UK commercial director with Vodafone in 1999 and by October 2001 he was CEO of Vodafone in Ireland. Over the past five years, Donovan ran Vodafone’s global portfolio of businesses outside of Western Europe which involved 19 businesses in the US, India, China, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand.

Donovan took the reins of Eircom last year and saw through its €140m acquisition by Singapore-based STT. In the ensuing months, Donovan has embarked on an organisational restructure that will make Eircom a force in wholesale, global IP transit, digital television and next-generation mobile.

In recent months, Donovan instigated a major €100m upgrade path for next-generation broadband that will see entry-level 1Mbps broadband automatically move to 8Mbps and that broadband customers on 1Mbps, 3Mbps and 7Mbps broadband will be upgraded for free. The new speeds will be initially available in Dublin but the upgrade will be extended to all major urban areas, including Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford by the end of the year, reaching potentially 1 million people.

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