Ireland risks being bogged in the broadband Dark Ages

22 May 2008

Ireland needs to move quickly to future fibre networks, otherwise it risks not only trailing at the bottom of the OECD broadband league-tables but dropping off the tables altogether, experts claim.

A report in recent days found that while Ireland recorded one of the highest increases in broadband adoption out of OECD countries, it is still near the bottom of the league table when it comes to broadband speeds.

Average advertised download speeds in Ireland at 3Mbps are a long way from the OECD average of 13Mbps and seem farcical compared to the near 100Mbps being enjoyed in Japan.

“The average advertised download speed across the OECD is 13Mbps. Ireland is only 3Mbps, which puts us just ahead of Mexico and Turkey. Where is our so-called knowledge economy?” asks Donal Hanrahan, chief development director of Magnet Networks.

According to the OECD report, Ireland recorded a 6pc increase in the number of new subscribers and by the end of December last there were 768,000 subscribers, 18.1pc of the population.

“I think it’s great that Ireland’s broadband take-up is accelerating but that’s only because we were so far behind.

“But the reality is that countrywide fibre networks, not ancient copper technology, are the way forward. Very soon the OECD will redefine broadband as fibre and we’ll disappear off the chart,” Hanrahan warned.

The OECD report also found that Ireland is one of the most expensive countries in the world when it comes to broadband, with the average monthly subscription working out at just under €40.

Hanrahan said Magnet Networks has deployed fibre networks in Limerick, Dublin, Cork and Galway connected to E-net’s fibre rings and has fibre available in 29 housing developments around the country.

“The problem is not just catching up on the OECD average but actually solving the rural problem as well, with over 10pc of Ireland currently not served with broadband,” Hanrahan railed.

Liam O’Halloran, chairman of alternative operators organisation ALTO, explained: “Broadband penetration is moving only because of a number of factors, such as being able to switch to other providers.

“The next question that should be asked is bandwidth – what speeds can you get? On the residential front, people are just beginning to use more applications like video that require faster speeds and on the business front, new business applications are bandwidth-heavy.

“On the one hand we have operators trying to increase capacity and quality of the copper network and drive more speed down the lines. But the truth is copper was never meant for data. The future is fibre and we need to move in that direction quickly.

“People are becoming more and more savvy and will begin to establish measurements comparing the speeds they are actually getting.

“The problem is Ireland does not seem to be serious about rolling out a fibre network, with the exception of a few operators in highly populated areas,” O’Halloran added.

By John Kennedy