Broadband disconnect as Ireland still lags behind EU average per capita

10 Mar 2016

Despite speed increases and a general population move towards digital services, Ireland still lags Europe in terms of broadband per capita

Despite mammoth increases in speeds, plans to increase the broadband footprint in Ireland cannot come fast enough, as the country still lags behind the EU average for broadband per capita, a new ComReg report has revealed.

The present picture as revealed in the latest ComReg quarterly report for the fourth quarter of 2015 shows that there is still some way to go before Ireland’s broadband woes – caused by blundering policy and lack of investment in the early days of broadband – can be resolved.

According to the report, based on the total number of broadband subscriptions in Ireland for Q4 2015, broadband penetration per capita was 36.8pc.

Future Human

However, when you take mobile broadband – which rarely conforms to international definitions of broadband – into account, that statistic falls to just 27.3pc.

This is behind the benchmarked EU average of 29.6pc.

Other nations fare better – Denmark has a per capita penetration of 43pc, the Netherlands is at 42pc, France is at 40pc and our nearest neighbours in the UK are at around 38pc.


In terms of the proportion of households with broadband connections combining mobile and broadband, Ireland actually is above the EU average of 80pc at 83pc. But then again let’s be realistic – mobile broadband is inconsistent, geography dependent and rarely cuts it in terms of the global definition of broadband.

Mobile broadband subscriptions have fallen by 11.4pc compared with the fourth quarter of 2014, possibly impacted by the spread of faster fixed-line broadband services and bundled products.

According to the FCC, the US telecoms watchdog, anything less than 25Mbps can no longer be called broadband.

68.8pc of all broadband speeds are greater than 10Mbps according to the latest ComReg report, but only 56.2pc of all fixed broadband subscriptions in Ireland are equal or greater than 30Mbps – meaning just over half of Irish broadband subscriptions roughly conform with the international definition of broadband.

The number of fixed-voice services subscriptions in Ireland fell by 0.7pc during the quarter to 1.48m. Mobile minutes now form the majority of voice calls in Ireland at 73.8pc.

SMS continues to decline in Ireland too, with the total number of SMS messages sent down 14.8pc since the fourth quarter of 2014, which means services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber are destroying the SMS market.

So what’s next on Ireland’s broadband odyssey?

The Irish worker and Irish consumer are now fully aware of, and fully expect, superior broadband services.

Workers require the flexibility to work from home while today’s consumer consumes increasing amounts of video and has transported traditional communications to online channels.

In part, the rise of streaming and video on demand from platforms like Spotify, Netflix and YouTube ultimately contributed to the demise of retail outlets like Xtra-Vision.

The Government has begun the procurement process for the National Broadband Plan to connect 750,000 postal addresses or 1.8m people to at least 30Mbps broadband services by 2020.

Meanwhile, incumbent operator Eir is commencing its plan to connect 100,000 homes in broadband-deprived areas to 1Gbps fibre broadband by March 2017.

The people have spoken. They want to be connected. They want to be connected now.

Fibre Ireland image via Shutterstock

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