Imagine to roll out 150Mbps 5G broadband to 1m premises in rural Ireland

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Initial Imagine investment will focus on underserved regional and rural areas in Ireland.

Sean Bolger’s Imagine plans to cover 1m Irish homes and businesses in underserved areas with 150Mbps connectivity using 5G fixed infrastructure.

As reported by Siliconrepublic.com last May, Imagine fosters ambitions to deploy its 5G fixed wireless infrastructure across Ireland and Europe by pioneering use of the 5G 3.6GHz spectrum. This is being enabled by the acquisition of a majority stake in Imagine by Canadian firm Brookfield Asset Management in an investment worth €120m.

Ireland’s underserved regional and rural areas will be the first in Europe to see the roll-out of Imagine’s new 5G fixed wireless infrastructure, which provides a last-mile solution in places where fibre to the home (FTTH) has been challenging or impossible.

The plan will see 325 sites built to cover 1.1m premises within 18 months, with additional sites to be added to meet demand as it arises. This will include delivering services to more than 400,000 of the roughly 540,000 premises identified in the National Broadband Plan, which is still awaiting the Government’s go-ahead.

Having already deployed a pilot network in 55 areas around the country, Imagine announced that it had started to build out the network and connect customers, and that the service will be live and available in 155 areas across 26 counties by June of this year.

Wireless versus fibre

“Despite announcements of investments of over €1.2bn over the last five years and the promise of the roll-out of fibre to the home, by the end of the third quarter of last year only 75,000 customers have been actually connected,” Bolger said.

“This is not a problem that is unique to Ireland; the reality is that rolling out fibre to every home is a lot more expensive and takes a lot more time than people expected and will take years to deliver even in urban areas, let alone rural areas.

“As an Irish company, we are delighted to announce this significant investment and a new approach which will finally solve this problem and deliver much-needed, fast and reliable high-speed broadband to homes, businesses and communities across regional and rural Ireland, today and into the future.”

The move follows Eir’s announcement on Monday (11 February) that it plans to invest €500m to roll out FTTH broadband across 1.4m premises around Ireland, predominantly in towns with populations of more than 1,000 people.

Imagine said people will be able to register their interest in the service online and will be updated on progress of the roll-out. It will publish quarterly updates detailing all areas connected, also outlining the next areas under its rolling connection programme.

“Our experience on the ground and during the trial is that people have grown very cynical of the continuous announcements and empty promises,” Bolger pointed out. “Actually turning up, delivering what we promised and meeting customers’ expectations was a key factor in the success of the commercial pilot.

“Our priority as we roll out the network is to extend our coverage to as many people as possible and with an initial service offering of up to 150Mbps.”

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com