Eircom reveals rival fibre-to-the-home service to compete with Vodafone/ESB JV

28 Oct 2014

Eircom has confirmed plans to build a new fibre to the home (FTTH) service that will compete with the €450m ESB and Vodafone network that received European Commission approval yesterday.

Eircom’s new network will connect to 66 towns across Ireland and will be available at speeds of up to 1,000Mbps.

Yesterday the European Commission gave the green light to Vodafone and ESB to build their €450m network which will deliver fibre to homes over ESB poles and directly into homes.

The ESB and Vodafone plan to connect 500,000 premises in 50 towns during its first phase.

It will offer broadband speeds ranging from 200Mbps up to 1,000Mbps.

Construction of the ESB and Vodafone network begins next year and the first phase will be completed by the end of 2018, with scope for a second phase to go further.Technical trials are currently underway in two housing estates in Cavan.

Eircom’s FTTH plans

Eircom’s move to connect 66 towns is a strategic response to the threat posed by the ESB and Vodafone joint venture.

Work is expected to start next month in three locations – Cavan town, Kilkenny city and Letterkenny – and the first products are expected to be available next Summer.

In Dublin, the areas of Malahide, Portmarnock and Swords will be among the first in the city to get Eircom’s new FTTH service.

The construction phase for each location is expected to take approximately six months.

Separately, Eircom Group has commenced the construction of a technical trial of FTTH to assess the most cost effective solution for the rollout of high speed broadband in rural Ireland and address the challenges of ribbon development.

This trial is taking place in Belcarra, Mayo and will launch in early 2015. Eircom has already trialled and deployed FTTH technology in both an urban and suburban environments in Wexford Town and Sandyford, Co Dublin.

The project will run in parallel with Eircom’s existing fibre investment programme. In August, Eircom announced an acceleration and extension of these plans to reach 1.4 million premises by the end of 2015. It also expanded the planned footprint from 1.4 million to 1.6 million homes and businesses.

Eircom has informed ComReg and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources of its plans.

Eircom said operators will continue to have the same “open access” to the fibre network alongside a suite of enhanced products with significantly increased speed profiles.

“Today demonstrates the flexibility and scalability of our future proofed fibre network,” Eircom’s acting CEO Richard Moat explained.

“Building on our existing network design, end to end fibre connectivity supporting speeds of one gigabit, is the natural next step in the evolution of our network capability.

“This announcement underlines eircom’s ambition for Ireland and our ambition as the country’s leading telecommunication provider to rollout new technologies that enable and encourage economic growth. Once again we will demonstrate our expertise and ability to deliver network.”

No doubt fibre investment of any kind at this stage is welcome in Ireland. The big questions are how much network duplication may occur and how far this extra drive to roll out fibre is driven by pure competition or a sincere desire to resolve the rural broadband problem for once and for all.

Fibre image via Shutterstock

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