The Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) is funding an Analysys Mason study into the best way Ireland can build its future next-generation network (NGN). Tommy McCabe is director of TIF.
There seem to be numerous groups focused on Ireland’s future NGN. What is the motive behind this study?
It’s TIF setting out what are the options. We’re talking about 50Mbps to homes and business and an uplink of 10Mbps. To deliver that, and to cover 90pc of the population, we need to cover 100pc of urban areas particularly in gateway hub towns designated in the Government’s national spatial strategy. We’re looking at the next three to five years to deliver this essential infrastructure.
What options will the report set out for the industry and the Government?
We will firstly examine what are the technologies that are needed and the cost of building them. We will also look at how it has been done in other countries, and if we are to do it in Ireland, is one company capable of doing it or will it be a consortium of companies.
We also need to know what would be the policy and regulatory framework necessary to support such an investment and ensure it will enable competition in the market.
Are you assuming the Government won’t be in a position to fund this vital infrastructure?
Not entirely. The logical view is the industry is best placed to make the investment if you look at the Government’s financial situation, the constraints on the public purse and the likelihood the Government will be in a position to invest €3bn-€5bn.
The study will look at fibre-to-the-home and the whole of the country that needs to be covered. We may not achieve that, but it’s a significant investment and what speeds we will result in.
It is not just an industry dilemma, but for the business community and Government too. An entity is needed that will operate on a wholesale basis, guarantee a return on that investment and ensure the network is opened up to competition with all retail telecoms operators who would include Eircom treated the same as any other telco.
What will be the price for Ireland if we fail to invest in this infrastructure?
We’ve caught up now in terms of European average for broadband and in some places exceeding it, the worst case scenario is that we start lagging it in terms of fibre, which will be the new highways for business.
Fibre will be more important than roads; this investment is vital not just for the telecoms sector, but also for the whole economy.
Our conference on 21 September will concentrate on empowering the smart economy. If you look at the broader picture, Ireland needs to be powering ahead.
How essential is this infrastructure to the nation’s future economy?
We need to be looking beyond this recession, beyond recovery and make sure that we’re putting in place an infrastructure that’s going to allow the Irish economy to grow.
We need to be building upon the services sector, that is the future of the Irish economy. For this to thrive, we need a strong telecoms sector, we need fibre everywhere and ensure we have the backbone to support wireless technologies like Long-Term Evolution and WiMax.
The TIF conference ‘Telecoms: Powering the Recovery and Enabling the Smart Economy’ takes place at Dublin Castle on 21 September. www.tif.ie
By John Kennedy
This story is part of the Digital 21 campaign to encourage Ireland to develop a National Digital Development Plan, ensuring the country anditseconomy are strategically well placed to thrive in the 21st century. For more stories, and to add your comments, visit www.digital21.ie