A new €100m plan from SSE and Enet will provide fibre broadband for regional towns across the country.
Enet-SSE, a new commercial joint venture, is to commercially bring fibre broadband to 115,000 homes and businesses in Ireland’s west and north-west regions.
The plans, revealed this afternoon in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, by Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, will see a new fibre-to-the-premises broadband network reach nine towns across the nation.
‘By jointly deploying our expertise and combined resources, we will extend world-class connectivity to some of the most underserved areas of the country’
– DAVID C MCCOURT
These include: Ballinasloe, Roscommon town, Manorhamilton, Bundoran, Ballyshannon, Donegal town, Ballybofey, Stranorlar and Buncrana.
The roll-out, which will be completed by 2019, will support 700 contractor jobs at peak delivery.
The news comes at a time when there is intense scrutiny around the future of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), which is already behind schedule having been due to begin in June 2017.
It emerged this week that the cost of subsidising the delivery of fibre to 550,000 premises in the NBP’s rural intervention area could rise by 60pc based on regulatory prices for accessing Eir’s network.
Lighting up the north and north-west
Enet operates Ireland’s 94 metropolitan area networks (MANs) on behalf of the Irish government, including a 100km dark fibre network around Ireland.
“This investment is extremely positive news for regional Ireland, and further evidence of our commitment to invest money where it matters to solve Ireland’s biggest connectivity needs, which are essential to future-proof its digital future,” said David C McCourt, Enet chair and founder of Granahan McCourt Capital, a key shareholder in Enet.
“By jointly deploying our expertise and combined resources, we will extend world-class connectivity to some of the most underserved areas of the country.”
SSE, owner of the Airtricity retail brand, is Ireland’s second-largest energy utility, and is currently in the final stages of developing Galway Wind Park in partnership with Coillte.
“At SSE, our renewable energy projects have allowed us to make a positive difference for communities across rural Ireland over the last decade, particularly through investment in local jobs, enterprises and communities.
“Now, working through our new venture Enet-SSE, we’re delighted that we will be delivering vital communications infrastructure that will make a real difference for regional communities and will support local contractor jobs during network roll-out.”
The curious thing is that the new Enet-SSE network is targeting towns where incumbent network Eir is already providing, or plans to provide, fibre broadband, rather than areas in dire need. For example, Eir’s fibre service is already live in Donegal town, Ballybofey and Stranorlar.
It is also unclear if Enet-SSE will be accessing Eir’s network on a wholesale basis or if it will connect its fibre directly to the MANs through the construction of a separate network.
Either way, the development was welcomed by Minister Naughten.
“This joint venture between Enet and SSE will deliver world-class high speed broadband to 115,000 premises, which is tremendous news for consumers and businesses in regional Ireland.
“With an investment in excess of €100m, which equates to a multimillion-euro investment each month during the network roll-out, the Enet-SSE project delivery is expected to support 700 contractor jobs and local supply-chain involvement in the west and north-west.
“Operated as a wholesale, open-access fibre network, it will be available to Ireland’s retail broadband providers, giving consumers choice and keeping prices competitive,” he said.