Govt reveals €220m rural broadband scheme – 170 new jobs

22 Jan 2009

Mobile operator 3 is to create 170 new jobs on the strength of the €220m Government contract for the National Broadband Scheme announced this morning that aims to provide Ireland with universal broadband coverage by 2010.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Communications Eamon Ryan TD today announced the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), the Government scheme to deliver broadband services throughout the country.

Following the conclusion of a competitive tendering process, the Minister entered into a contract for the delivery of this scheme with Hutchinson Whampoa’s Irish subsidiary, 3 Ireland.

The mobile operator will deploy and upgrade its network of 3G infrastructure to enable citizens to access high-speed broadband via its cellular network.

Ireland currently has over 1.2 million broadband subscribers, and the National Broadband Scheme will provide the remaining 10pc of our population — or approximately 33pc of the area of the country — with broadband services.

It is therefore envisaged Ireland will have 100pc coverage by September 2010 — half of the area under the scheme will be covered by the end of this year.

Investment of €223m from a combination of Exchequer funds, EU co-financing and 3 will create 170 direct jobs.

Hundreds more will be protected and created, as the availability of broadband increases the investment and enterprise in the targeted areas.

3 will extend its network to provide mobile wireless-broadband services into the NBS area. Initially, the service will have a minimum download speed of 1.2Mbps moving to 6.8Mbps by next year and 10.4Mbps by 2012 as part of scheduled upgrades.

“For too long, rural Ireland has been without this essential service,” said Minister Ryan announcing the contract. “Today’s announcement is a boost for the rural economy.

“Now businesses throughout the country can have ready access to the national and international markets. Employment will be created and sustained. Quality of life will improve for rural residents, and communities will be strengthened.”

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Ryan said the deal with 3 represents real value for money for the Irish public.

“We’ll be rolling out our first-class broadband network, bringing internet services to thousands of homes and businesses across the country,” commented Robert Finnegan, 3 Ireland’s chief executive.

“Over five years we’ll be investing €223m and creating around 170 new jobs, giving Ireland’s economy a welcome boost. There has never been a more important time for people to get connected as Ireland strives to sharpen its competitiveness.

“3 has already played an important part in bringing Ireland up to speed in the broadband league tables, and we look forward to further strengthening 3’s market leading position with the most innovative and services and best-value price plans available,” said Finnegan.

In addition to 3’s infrastructure upgrades, the firm responsible for phase 1 of the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs), E-net said the 27 regional MANs will play an important role in facilitating the NBS rollout.

“E-net is encouraged by the Department’s announcement, and its continuing commitment to make broadband universal in Ireland,” said chief executive Conall Henry.

“The MANs are a critical element in delivering this initiative, both in terms of the quality of infrastructure and their proven impact on competition within the market. E-net and the MANs are already delivering on the policy objectives of attracting and retaining foreign direct investment in regional Ireland, reducing the cost of high-quality broadband, and increasing competition among telecoms providers in the regions,” said Henry.

By John Kennedy

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