Ireland to set up taskforce to drive NGN investment

13 Oct 2010

Ireland’s Communications Minister Eamon Ryan TD said he is establishing a Next-Generation Network Taskforce which he will chair that will focus on industry collaboration and clearing investment, civil and other obstacles in order to ensure the country develops the world’s leading digital networks.

Speaking at TIF’s annual conference yesterday at Dublin Castle, Ryan said his policy objectives for next-generation internet infrastructure are broadly in line with those objectives set out by EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, who was also present at the conference.

He said Kroes’ plan to have all citizens at 30Mbps connectivity by 2020 and half of citizens having up to 100Mbps is in line with his own policy objectives.

Achieving targets

“We need to recognise where we are – there have been crucial developments, such as the completion of the National Broadband Scheme – that issue that has really been at the top of the agenda for the last five years, which is coming to completion. With that in place, we will have 100pc access to broadband infrastructure, this is important as it allows us to move on.

“It’s not good enough to have 100pc if 80pc are using 2 to 10Mbps speeds, we are going to have to ramp up to a whole new level to meet Commissioner’s targets.

“We have come to the conclusion that making investments would require both collaboration and competition. We have seen in recent years that having an open competitive market is starting to work and improve position and counter the legacy of being behind the curve and poorly performing. There is a clear change of direction within our incumbent which is making the move to wholesale offerings that are real and aggressive.

“This is being helped by significant investment by UPC in its network with DOCSIS 3 which is giving us the 100Mbps speeds the EU is looking to see delivered and we are going to see that delivered in 2010, that competitive market has worked.

“But not just that, we are starting to see trials of some of the latest wireless technologies where we’ve always had an advantage because of our rural dispersed population. WiMax is being deployed to real success, we are ahead of EU countries as well as advancements in satellite technology.

Collaboration is king

“But to see real next-generation access, it is vital we concentrate on collaboration. Collaboration is going to be the key; let’s put in place the right mechanisms but not re-monopolise a whole market, because we wouldn’t get the technology innovation and price reduction of having such a competitive market.

“Our ambition is to be up there with comparative regions in Europe, we have to be matching or ahead.

“We are placed well in this ICT environment. Some €43bn of exports are in computer services – by 2025, 70pc of exports from this country will be in traded services, according to the ESRI.

“We have 75,000 people in ICT industry and in the teeth of the worst recession in history, employment in that sector grew 6pc.

“We are seeing the emergence of a single integrated ICT content and networking industry that is converging, expanding and will double employment growth from 6pc last year to 12pc this year.”

Ryan said a new Government CIO will deliver efficiencies throughout the public sector and cited Joe Horan, county manager for South Dublin, who has saved 40pc through ICT efficiencies and being able to redeploy former back office staff to more frontline services.

The country’s move to energy-efficient housing will also require that 2 million households will have the right data management systems and this will require investing in communications networks.

“I welcome the appointment of Paul Donovan as head of TIF, he is stepping up to real challenges and difficulties in the market as well as considerable debt, but if you look, the company is addressing those challenges, being more efficient and cutting costs and he has made a clear signal that Eircom is interested in collaboration.”

“I intend to match that commitment with the establishment of a new next-gen taskforce. I will chair that as minister to make collaboration work not only for industry providers but the end users, too.

“Rather than just looking from a network provider view, I am establishing this taskforce to make investment possible and to ensure that local authorities, utilities, the use of public infrastructure and our regulatory system is fit for purpose.”

He said his aim is to be technology neutral and a core focus will be to get spectrum policy in place for the auctioning of 900Mhz spectrum in line with the switching off of analogue TV.

“The task I will set the taskforce is to develop the collaborative approach to make it work. This will mean fibre to every base station. As the move to smartphones accelerates, it is vital quality is maintained.

“This is the approach we have to take. We need to see how we can work on a collaborative basis to make it happen,” Ryan told the TIF conference.

Watch highlights of Eamon Ryan’s talk at TIF 2010 – The Next Economy here: icon: launch video

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