Galway stage of national broadband plan begins

24 Feb 2003

Work has commenced on rolling out a new €9m broadband network in Galway, marking the second stage of the €65m national broadband plan. The plan kicked off earlier this month with an €11m fibre network circling Cork.

Work on rolling out the 45km network is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

The project is the second stage of the 19-town €65m investment planned for this year. The overall national broadband plan is understood to be 90pc funded by the Government and 10pc by the EU. Local authorities will maintain ownership of the ducts and channels that will circle and link the key towns and private contractors have already begun pitching for the business of laying the infrastructure. The networks circling the towns will be metropolitan area networks (MANs) into which local businesses and overseas investment firms can connect, thereby providing stimulus for economic development of each town.

Originally unveiled about a year ago, the original national broadband plan would have involved some €200m investment and included 67 towns. However, the dawn of harsh economic realities prompted a re-scaling of the plans to include 19 key towns in the first phase, with the remaining 48 towns to be included over the next three to four years.

The 19 towns, ranging from Donegal to Cork, will be connected to a backbone running through the country. It is envisaged that it will enable operators to provide cheap, always-on access to the internet to businesses and homes across Ireland.

A unique feature of the Galway rollout is the plan to co-ordinate the installation of the fibre alongside the new natural gas main. Talks are understood to be at an advanced stage between Bord Gais and Galway City authorities concerning the co-hosting of both the gas main and the fibre network in a single duct.

“I know arrangements have not been finalised yet, but the city authorities hope to reduce significantly road openings to facilitate the new network by using the new gas main,” Dermot Ahern TD, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources said. He added that having a natural gas supply and a high-speed fibre network would prove ultimately to be a major driver of inward investment.

By John Kennedy