The ESB’s ambitious plans to roll out broadband across the regions kicked off today with the switching on of the southern loop.
The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Dermot Ahern did the honours at a ceremony in Limerick today.
The first instalment will link Dublin to Waterford, Dublin to Shannon and Waterford to Limerick and Cork.
Altogether it’s planned to roll out 1,300km of fibre optic cable across the regions. It’s hoped that the entire network will be completed before the end of this year.
The fibre-optic backbone planned will comprise 193km from Shannon to CityWest in Dublin, 191km from Dublin to Waterford, 172 km Waterford to Limerick, 163km from Clare to Galway, 230 km from Roscommon to Sligo-Leitrim, 159kms Donegal-Meath-Louth-Monaghan-Cavan and 129kms in Donegal.
Approximately 600km have been completed in the southern region with 300 in the northern.
The company said that the network consists of 48 fibres (24 pairs, each of which is capable of delivering 2.5GB) wrapped around the ESB’s high voltage network.
At the ceremony, Minister Ahern congratulated the ESB for adding to the telecommunications infrastructure in Ireland: “We must recognise the vision of the board of the ESB in the development of such a comprehensive fibre optic network. The company’s capital outlay on this network is a measure of that vision.”
ESB Chairman, Tadhg O Donoghue said the installation of the broadband network was a continuation of ESB’s commitment to Irish society: “It is a story of partnership, innovation and expansion. Today’s development represents an exciting advance in the provision of broadband infrastructure in Ireland.”
The technology has been used extensively in Europe and is said to be up to 10 times more reliable than equivalent underground networks
The project began three years ago, in 2000 when the ESB signed a IR£10m contract with AFL Focas to provide infrastructure that would assist all regions of the country to attract high-tech industry by building a nationwide fibre-optic telecommunications network along its transmission and distribution network.
In the same year the ESB formed a telecommunications division in the engineering and commercial business unit to manage and develop this area, including broadband, third-generation mobile and the provision of antennae towers for the telecoms industry.
The national fibre optic backbone system is designed to act as a platform for ESB participation in the Irish telecoms sector.
The new network will provide the ESB with the chance to sell or lease capacity and offer managed-bandwidth services to other licenced operators.
Their principal customers will be fixed-line operators, mobile operators – for back haul and the wireless network businesses.
The project had been due to be completed by the end of last year. However the foot and mouth crisis in 2001 meant that the company took a decision not to go across farmers’ land – taking three months off their schedule. There were further hold-ups last year when bad weather meant that they couldn’t get onto land to gain access to the pylons.
Speaking to siliconrepublic.com spokesman for the company, Peter Kelly said the project could be seen as a joint strategy with the Government’s plans to spend €65m on the first phase of its regional broadband strategy to build fibre-optic networks in 20 towns and cities.
The first phase of this is well under way but last year the Government announced it was reviewing its plans.
The ESB network is the first service to offer a uniform bandwidth across the country.
By Suzanne Byrne