Siro pulls out of National Broadband Plan procurement process

26 Sep 2017

Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD. Image: John Kennedy

Siro is out but Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, is still confident that 90pc of Ireland will have broadband by 2020.

Siro, the joint venture of ESB and Vodafone, has withdrawn itself from the Irish Government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The move comes as detailed submissions due today (26 September) were handed in for the tendering process, leaving only two bidders left in the race: Eir and the consortium of Enet, SSE, Granahan McCourt and John Laing Group.

‘Naturally, we are disappointed that Siro is withdrawing from the National Broadband Plan tender, but our vision of creating a “gigabit society” in Ireland is unaffected as the Siro roll-out continues as part of our €450m investment with ESB’

Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, said he did not believe that Siro’s withdrawal from the process would in any way hinder the plan from rolling out.

“Siro formally communicated to my department that it is withdrawing from the procurement process to focus its efforts on delivering high-speed broadband to 500,000 homes and businesses across 51 towns in Ireland,” he said. “They are investing €450m on this project.”

The withdrawal of Siro comes after months of speculation about the operator’s willingness to stay in the procurement process after the Government signed a deal with Eir to fast-track 300,000 homes in the original intervention area as part of a €200m investment.

While Siro did not state that the deal between Eir and the Government influenced its decision, the company said it was a tough one to make.

“Our decision to withdraw from the National Broadband Plan tender has not been taken lightly,” said Sean Atkinson, CEO of Siro.

“We will continue with our original plans, focusing on transforming Ireland’s regional towns, putting them on a par for high-speed connectivity with cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong. Siro’s ‘gigabit towns’ will attract investment and job creation, support SMEs, and allow access to new services in education, healthcare and entertainment.”

CEO of Vodafone Ireland, Anne O’Leary, said that the company is focused on spreading fibre services to Irish towns.

“Naturally, we are disappointed that Siro is withdrawing from the National Broadband Plan tender, but our vision of creating a ‘gigabit society’ in Ireland is unaffected as the Siro roll-out continues as part of our €450m investment with ESB.

“The decision to withdraw was difficult, but it means the company can refocus its attention to building out the Siro network further. With over 100,000 premises due to be passed at the end of the month and the level of sign-ups reaching as high as 20 to 25pc in our early-launch towns, there is clear commercial demand for gigabit connectivity across regional Ireland,” O’Leary said.

NBP tender to be announced in New Year

Minister Naughten said that the NBP will continue with its mission to deliver fibre broadband to the 542,000 premises in the intervention area.

“Every village in Ireland will have a pure fibre connection,” he said.

“It is an undisputed fact that the National Broadband Plan has already leveraged investment in infrastructure in rural Ireland.”

The Minister said that Siro and Eir are neck and neck in terms of deploying fibre, with 100,000 rural homes passed.

“In the last six months, there has been a 150pc increase in the number of pure fibre connections,” he said.

“The facts are, close to seven out of 10 premises now have access to high-speed broadband. Within a year, that will rise to nearly eight out of 10 premises and, by 2020, nine out of 10 premises (or 90pc of the country) will have access to high-speed broadband.”

Fergal Mulligan, Department of Communications official, said that the Government is now two-thirds of the way through its procurement process.

“In the New Year, the final tender will be awarded.”

Minister Naughten wouldn’t commit to a final date for when the last homes or businesses in rural Ireland would get a broadband connection.

“Not one day later than is absolutely necessary,” he promised.

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