Fibre breakthrough as Eircom and E-net finally connect

30 Jun 2011

Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 94 key towns across Ireland may soon be joined to the Eircom NGN Core platform following a backhaul deal that connects one MAN – in Birr, Co Offally – to the Eircom network.

Granted, it’s just one MAN out of 94, but if reason prevails, connecting the other 93 would substantially increase the density of fibre connectivity in Ireland.

At a time of economic crisis, operators can no longer play a waiting game, especially with infrastructure that will define the economy’s survival for the foreseeable decade.

“Anything that drives down MAN interconnect costs is obviously welcomed by the operators, as well as being well received by end users,” said Niall Wisdom of Complete Telecom, whose company will be able to provide high-speed connectivity to FAS in Birr on the back of the deal.

Eircom Wholesale is the division of Eircom responsible for providing open telecoms access, traffic and infrastructure services to more than 60 national and international service providers.

The Eircom network has more than 12,000 kilometres of fibre and the NGN core network represents a €1bn investment by the company in recent years.

But having close to 100 key towns across Ireland employing hundreds of thousands of people surrounded by state-of-the-art fibre rings and not connected to the incumbent’s core network defied belief.

For much of the last decade, Eircom has been roundly criticised in the industry and by the public for not embracing wholesale sufficiently to allow the telecoms market in Ireland to grow and this has been one of the factors seen as key to slow broadband take-up by businesses.

Hopefully, more MAN networks in towns that are integral to FDI and employment in local industries will be connected to the NGN core, as well as other backhaul networks – affording the country the kind of infrastructure it needs to remain relevant.

A landmark development

“This is a landmark development for Birr and regional Ireland, in general. It has been our experience that the outcome for every MAN town largely depends on the availability of backhaul to connect the MAN to the wider, global network,” said E-net CEO Conall Henry.

“While we have existing relationships with other suppliers, this agreement marks a major breakthrough in providing world-class, open-access broadband in Birr and has the potential to be rolled out to other MAN towns nationwide,” Henry said.

To date, Eircom has installed NGN capability in more than 600 urban and provincial locations, enabling high-bandwidth connections of up to 1Gbps for operators and enterprises in these areas.

“We are delighted that E-net has chosen NGN Ethernet to provide backhaul connectivity from Birr,” Eircom’s head of wholesale Chris Hutchings said. “They join 14 operators providing service using the next-generation Ethernet product over the Eircom NGN core network.”

The move by E-net and Eircom is to be welcomed and hopefully 93 more locations will enjoy the same connectivity.

If that happens, then the next big battle – next-generation access – to provide fibre directly into homes and businesses across the land might just seem that little more feasible.

Photo: Eircom’s head of wholesale Chris Hutchings and E-net CEO Conall Henry

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