First customers go live on national metro rings

30 Jan 2004

The Government’s much publicised national programme to bring broadband to the regions has come dramatically to life with the news that the first of the trumpeted 19 metro fibre rings has been lit up in Cork.

The College of Commerce in Cork City is one of 10 organisations that was ‘switched on’ to the service last Friday, it has emerged. The college is benefiting from high-speed internet access that bypasses DSL and connects straight to fibre at connection speeds up to 6Mbps upload and download.

The service is being provided by a small Cork-based telecoms firm, Amocom, which gives access over the ‘last mile’ to homes and businesses in the Cork area. Amocom’s bandwidth comes from, among other suppliers, Smart Telecom which secured the new capacity following negotiations with international carriers providing capacity out of Dublin; ESB Telecom, which has built a national fibre backbone over the last two years; Cork County Council, which put in place the fibre ring between the ESB’s fibre termination point at Kilbarry and Mahon, also in Cork; and the National Software Centre in Mahon, the connection hub for Amocom and other access providers in the region.

“The key point is that broadband is being delivered to users. It demonstrates how the national broadband plan is all fitting together. The metro fibre rings are revolutionising the regional availability of connectivity,” said a delighted John O’Hare, managing director of Amocom.

He added it was highly significant that for the first time a broadband service was being provided to end users that did not rely on the infrastructure of the incumbent operator, Eircom.

Amocom is what is known as a wireless internet service provider. It owns its own core access network – the last mile to the customer’s home or business – and buys bandwidth wholesale from network operators such as Eircom, MCI and Smart Telecom.

For the last 12 months, Amocom has piloted a wireless broadband system, as part of a series of Government-funded wireless broadband projects throughout the State. So far, 140 customers have signed up to the service, which uses a Motorola technology called Canopy to deliver high-quality, high-speed wireless internet access to homes and businesses in Cork. The service costs €60 per month plus Vat for home users and €80 per month plus Vat for business users.

Up until now the amount of bandwidth and its availability have been constrained by the necessity to hook into the national backbone network of Amocom’s wholesale partners – but not any more. “We are now connected to the ESB’s fibre backbone which means we can offer our customer upstream capacities of up to 6 megs [megabits per second]. Up until now the major cost has been that of access. The major advantages of the ESB capacity is that firstly we’ll see prices falling fairly significantly and secondly my customers will have the ability to scale their bandwidth rapidly. If they need another 2 meg capacity it can be done tomorrow instead of the two months it used to take. Provisioning of bandwidth should be much easier from now on.”

He added: “The key [broadband] structures have been put in place nationally and internationally but the key thing here is getting it over the last mile.

“We’re bringing fibre from the edge of the network to the benefit of customers. We’re realising the dream of the Department of Communications.”

By Brian Skelly