Irish Govt plans fibre rollout to 600k homes and 100k businesses next year

24 Nov 2014

The Irish Government has published a map of its planned €512m investment in fibre broadband, which will cover 32pc of premises – 600,000 homes and 100,000 businesses – across Ireland.

The mapping exercise, conducted as required under EU state aid, revealed there are 2.3m premises in the Republic of Ireland.

The commercial telecoms industry plans to invest to deliver high-speed broadband access to 68pc of the premises in the State by the end of 2016, including 1.6m homes and businesses.

The remaining 600,000 homes and 100,000 businesses will require direct State intervention to receive fibre speeds of 1Gbps and beyond.

In the next year, the Department of Communications will decide on the best way to run the new network in terms of ownership and governance.

Communications Minister Alex White, TD, said it has yet to be decided whether the network would be built by a single contractor or a number of contractors.

A detailed submission will then be sent to Europe for approval.

Broadband rollout will be similar in scale to rural electrification of Ireland in 20th century

View Larger Map

The map shows Ireland in two colours, BLUE and AMBER. The blue represents those areas that the commercial operators will cover by the end of 2016. Amber represents areas that will be targeted by the National Broadband Plan.

White said the direct State intervention will be a “huge infrastructural programme akin to the rural electrification scheme of the last century”.

A map for the current state of high-speed broadband in Ireland can be found online.

“The delivery of high quality broadband is about ensuring that our citizens in rural Ireland have the same life chances, and the same access to information, culture, ideas, social interaction and opportunity that people in urban areas can enjoy. It’s also about jobs in the rural economy,” said White.

“By ensuring access to high quality broadband we will help attract investment and ensure that businesses in rural Ireland can stay in rural Ireland.

“We will also enable people to live in their local communities and work from home if that works for them. And it’s about families and communities – helping us keep in touch with loved ones, enabling our children to use the internet as a rich learning resource at school and at home, and giving people rapid access to a full range of public services.”

The plan was first unveiled back in April by former communications minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, who made it clear at the time the investment was overdue. The cost of the plan was envisaged at around €512m.

The Government’s plans should dovetail nicely with plans by ESB and Vodafone, as well as Eircom, to deploy high-speed fibre to Ireland’s rural areas.

In recent weeks, the European Commission gave ESB the green light to press ahead with its €450m plan to deploy fibre to connect 500,000 premises in 50 towns with up to 1Gbps speeds during its first phase.

Also in recent weeks, Eircom revealed plans to connect homes and businesses in 66 towns with speeds of up to 1,000Mbps or 1Gbps.

A rising digital tide will lift all boats

The plan to broadband enable Ireland’s rural economy is a sound one in light of the rapid growth of digital technologies.

According to the second UPC Report on Ireland’s Digital Economy, the internet economy in Ireland employed the full-time equivalent of 49,000 people in 2012.

Some 150,000 direct and indirect jobs are set to be created in the Irish digital economy as the value of online trading from these shores is set to surge to almost €22bn by 2020.

The Government’s ambitious plan could make Ireland, for a change, the envy of the developed world in terms of next-generation infrastructure.

A scenario in which Irish towns and villages could have better broadband than not only Dublin or Cork but some of Europe’s most pre-eminent cities.

Now wouldn’t that be quite a thing.

Digital Ireland image via Shutterstock

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