After discussions began earlier this year, ESB and Vodafone have 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 signed today 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 deal is a major step for Vodafone, the UK mobile operator, as it looks to expand further into the fixed-line broadband market in Ireland, where it serves 200,000 customers and 8.5m other across Europe.
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 more than 500,000 homes. That number is expected to increase in the foreseeable future.
The cost of the rollout is expected to remain low, as both overhead and underground electric cabling is being used in the network.
Customer access from early 2015
The service is expected to begin rolling out in the coming months, with the first commercial packages expected to be available in the beginning of 2015. Full completion is expected in 2018.
Both ESB and Vodafone have said if there is significant take-up of the service, there will be scope for a further second-phase rollout.
This project is one of the most significant to come out of Ireland in recent years, as the country’s overall access to broadband outside its major cities has been criticised as being poor. Recently, however, Ireland has been ranked second in the world in terms of internet speed increase (up 47pc since 2013).
Recent figures from ComReg, Ireland’s communications regulator, have shown that this struggle for acceptable levels of broadband have not been met to date. In its latest poll of SMEs, 43pc received speeds of 10Mbps, which in the current economy is far below the standard seen across Europe.
Contributing to National Broadband Plan
The ESB-Vodafone deal also marks the Government’s re-assessment of the National Broadband Plan last April, which found that if it were to reach its target of 70Mbps for 50pc of Ireland’s households, it would need assistance from commercial entities.
Speaking of the deal, the ESB’s chief executive Pat O’Doherty said, “This innovative ESB-led initiative is a major milestone for Ireland, as the fibre-broadband network will be a key enabler for a knowledge-based, services-led economy that will help to attract investment to Ireland.”
Vodafone’s CEO Anne O’Leary discussed the importance of rolling out higher-speed broadband across the country to meet ever-growing demand.
“With the number of devices per household anticipated to almost double over the next four years and more bandwidth-hungry services being developed, this new broadband service will enable a whole range of new services to be offered to Irish customers in the future, from entertainment, security, teleworking to web-based gaming or home automation.”
The 50 Irish towns to receive the ESB-Vodafone broadband service:
Little Island, East Cork
Skerries / Rush, Dublin
High-speed broadband image via Shutterstock