Eircom expects same access to ESB infrastructure as fibre JV

2 Jul 2014

Incumbent telecoms operator Eircom, which serves 40 telecoms operators on a wholesale basis, said today it intends to seek the same level of access other operators will have to ESB infrastructure like manholes and ducts that will be provided to the new joint venture (JV) between ESB and Vodafone.

The move brings into focus questions about potential duplication of telecoms assets in Irish cities and towns and what competitive action Eircom, which is mulling an IPO, may yet take on the matter.

Eircom said in a statement this afternoon that where appropriate it intends to seek the same level of access to infrastructure that will be provided to other operators as part of ESB and Vodafone’s new joint venture.

ESB and Vodafone today announced a €450m deal for the mobile operator to use ESB’s electricity cables to bring broadband to rural areas across Ireland. The joint venture agreement is aiming to bring broadband speeds of 200Mbps up as high as 1,000Mbps through a fibre-to-building network in an attempt to make Ireland home of one of the fastest networks in the world.

The agreement also makes Ireland the first country in Europe to use the existing electricity infrastructure to deliver broadband. Initially, 50 towns across Ireland are to receive the service, providing for initially more than 500,000 homes.

The joint venture is, however, no silver bullet for rural broadband woes as it is only targeting towns with 4,000-plus buildings.

In a separate plan, the Irish Government is putting together a €512m scheme involving the use of overhead lines to ensure 1,100 villages in areas commercial operators don’t consider viable will be connected to future-proofed fibre networks.

Sticking to the plan

In a statement this afternoon, Eircom said it intends to stick to its plan of bringing fibre broadband to 1.4m homes and businesses in 860 communities – 70pc of Ireland – as part of a €400m investment plan.

The Eircom open access network currently passes 900,000 homes and businesses.

“This includes all 50 locations announced today by the ESB and Vodafone,” Eircom said.

“We remain fully focused to work together with the Government and industry to ensure that all parts of Ireland, including rural Ireland, have access to high-speed broadband.

“We welcome the ESB opening its network to other operators and we intend, where appropriate, to seek the same level of access to ESB infrastructure that will be provided to the new joint venture.”

Fibre image via Shutterstock

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