The IBEC-based Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) said that a proposed plan by Dublin City Council to cover the city with wireless broadband could have an overall negative impact on the broadband market, resulting in potential redundancies.
TIF director Tommy McCabe also said that the proposed plan, expected to cost up to €20m if implemented, could afterwards consume substantial public funds just to maintain.
It emerged earlier this week that Dublin City Council had put out a tender for consultants to offer advice regarding technological, regulatory and financial issues if such a service was deployed.
It is estimated that building a citywide network of Wi-Fi hotspots would cost the city of Dublin between €12m and €20m. One of the stipulations of the tender is that it will not provide competition to commercial operators already offering wireless and fixed-line services.
However, today TIF’s Tommy McCabe warned that a citywide Wi-Fi network could in fact damage the Irish broadband at a point where the country is seeing the highest ever rate of broadband take-up.
McCabe explained: “The set-up costs for the proposed Wi-Fi project have been estimated at €10-20m, but the running costs of maintenance and management cannot be resolved by a ‘one-off’ payment. This scheme will consume substantial public funds during its lifespan.”
He noted serious concerns not only regarding cost, but also on its effect on employment and the broadband market in Ireland.
“In effect Dublin City Council would be diverting public funds to put existing Wi-Fi operators out of business, causing redundancies, and it could have an overall negative impact on the broadband market through what boils down to below-cost selling.”
McCabe said that while the telecoms industry supported Government investment in telecoms infrastructure, funding should be only for areas that are unable to receive broadband. The Government is shutting down the Group Broadband Scheme due to bureaucratic bungling at a time when 15pc of the country cannot receive broadband.
“Public funding should be put to use where there is greatest need – Dublin has the highest level of broadband availability in Ireland. Tackling the digital divide would be better achieved through methods such as the proposed National Broadband Scheme and in consultation with industry,” said McCabe.
McCabe also warned that unlicensed spectrum could interfere with existing wireless networks all across Dublin and the potential network congestion of having so many connections could render the service unusable for many.
“TIF urges the council to meet with industry to discuss their proposals and find a sustainable way forward,” he said.
By John Kennedy