State fibre assets could power NGNs

3 Jul 2008

The telecoms industry will today be presented with the Government’s report on next-generation networks (NGNs) and many hope the plan involves making use of stranded fibre assets owned by the State, which combined could turn Ireland into a leading digital nation.

Today, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD, will report the findings of a commission he established on NGNs.

In the past month he has turned down a proposal from Eircom to provide support in kind to the tune of €170m for a €500m plan to place fibre in urban centres.

But telecom operators urging platform competition in Ireland are keen to see existing fibre resources lying unused around Ireland repurposed for the good of the nation.

At present, apart from strident efforts by ESB Telecoms, fibre resources belonging to both CIÉ and Bord Gáis are not being used to improve Ireland’s communications infrastructure.

“We need to open up state fibre assets and keep investing in the Metropolitan Area Network plan,” said Magnet Networks, chief executive, Mark Kellett at yesterday’s Real Broadband Alternatives Conference in Dublin, organised by Magnet, UPC and Digiweb.

“The Irish Government has a major fibre footprint that could fix the country’s broadband problems and NGN dilemma in a single swoop.

“CIÉ’s fibre assets connect to 80pc of urban centres across Ireland,” Kellett said.

Also at the conference yesterday, Minister Ryan said the private sector should take a proactive role in stimulating broadband competition.

“I believe that key to this progression will be the stimulation of competition in the marketplace, which will help to ensure the demands of the Irish consumer are met with high-quality, efficient and competitively priced broadband services.”

During the conference, the CEO of each of the organising companies provided a well-documented account of how each provider is contributing to moving Ireland further up the OECD broadband league table. 

 “Delivering real broadband choice is critical to delivering more choice, access and better value for consumers,” said Robert Dunn, chief executive of UPC Ireland.

“The development in broadband in Europe has already shown that countries with strong, infrastructure-based competition frequently take the lead in terms of overall household penetration of broadband services.”

Kellett warned an IP tsunami is fast approaching and we need to embrace this eventuality as it will sweep away those technology platforms that have failed to invest or innovate. 

“It is no longer relevant to talk about Web 2.0,” he warned. “We need to look at Web 3.0 and beyond to see how our lives will be transformed by the internet in the next decade. It is vital, in today’s competitive environment, that we take advantage of the best technologies available so that we are truly positioned for success on the world stage. There is an incredible opportunity for Ireland Inc to be the big-wave surfer that rides the tsunami to success.”

Colm Piercy, CEO of Digiweb, said the deployment of innovative and competing infrastructure is “the only viable route to achieving new telecoms services and better pricing for Irish consumers and businesses, and is vital if Ireland is to remain competitive in the current and future environment.”

By John Kennedy

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