ESB and Vodafone’s €450m fibre joint venture gets European Commission green light

27 Oct 2014

Pictured: Pat O'Doherty, chief executive of ESB; Anne O'Leary, chief executive of Vodafone Ireland; and Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White, TD

The European Commission has granted Vodafone and ESB the go-ahead to build a €450m 100pc fibre network in Ireland which will connect over 500,000 premises in 50 towns during its first phase.

The ESB and Vodafone joint venture was approved under the EU Merger Regulation.

The two companies will now go about formally establishing the joint venture.

The 100pc fibre-to-the-building network will offer broadband speeds from 200Mbps to 1,000Mbps (or 1Gbps), initially reaching 500,000 premises in 50 towns in phase one.

Network roll-out will commence early next year and phase one is expected to be complete by the end of 2018, with further scope for a second phase thereafter.

The first technical trials of the technology are already underway in two estates in Cavan town.

“This is a huge milestone for ESB. We have invested €6bn in recent years in transforming and modernising Ireland’s electricity grid, so that it can deliver this type of service,” explained Pat O’Doherty, CEO of ESB.

“It’s consistent with ESB’s strategy of innovating, modernising and working in collaboration with other industry leaders.”

Ireland could soon be home to one of the fastest networks in the world

In July, ESB and Vodafone announced a €450m deal for the mobile operator to use ESB’s electricity cables to bring broadband to rural areas across Ireland.

“The fibre-to-the-building network will provide a vital boost for the Irish business community, particularly in regional areas, by getting more companies online, enabling them to develop new products and services, creating new international trade opportunities and attracting more FDI to Ireland,” said Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary.

While the ESB and Vodafone joint venture will build and manage the fibre-to-the-building network, open access will be offered to all authorised operators in Ireland on a wholesale basis.

This means that other operators can resell the fibre product to their customers.

“This decision is great news for Irish broadband customers and providers as it will drive competition in the sector, while giving 50 towns nationwide access to a market-leading, future-proofed broadband service,” Communications Minister Alex White, TD said.

“It’s an important project which complements the Government’s National Broadband Plan to ensure that all of Ireland’s regions have access to fast broadband.”

“It is also hugely significant in terms of the National Digital Strategy which aims to get more small businesses online. High-speed broadband is a crucial element for Ireland’s future competitiveness and this project will help ensure that Ireland is better connected than most countries in the world.”

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