Four groups have been selected by the Department of Communications to help complete the remaining 10pc of Ireland’s population currently not served with adequate entry level 21st century broadband services under the National Broadband Strategy
The groups – Eircom, BT, Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd and an IFA/Motorola consortium – were selected to complete the national broadband penetration as part of a procurement process sponsored by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
Ireland’s broadband situation has been the subject of much debate primarily due to the late development of the rollout of broadband, poor penetration levels and lack of access.
Ireland has leaped from a situation where less than 30,000 people subscribed for broadband three years ago to in excess of 600,000 people subscribing today.
However, there has been much criticism that much of this subscriber base accesses entry-level services of between 500Kb/s and 2Mb/s where much higher speeds of between 5Mb and 20Mb are becoming the international norm.
The National Broadband Scheme – engineered to replace the failed Group Broadband Scheme – aims to bootstrap providers to provide services in areas not considered economically viable.
The Department of Communications estimates that 10pc of the nation cannot access broadband services, but it is believed widely that this could be as high as 15pc.
A ComReg survey earlier this year highlighted the fact that 30pc of narrowband or dial-up users in regional areas who want broadband have been declined the service.
The new Communications Minister Eamon Ryan TD said that under the new scheme a preferred provider will be selected in early 2008.
“The Programme for Government was clear that a world-class telecommunications sector is critical to our continued economic and social prosperity,” said Ryan. “Broadband provision throughout the country is at the heart of this plan.”
Ryan said this next stage ensures that the remaining 10pc of the country can have access to the services they require.
“The Government is committed to bringing competitive, affordable and innovative broadband services to all consumers,” Ryan said.
“We are also mindful of the necessity to offer choice of service provider and product choice to Irish consumers and business.”
When the scheme was first unveiled by the previous Communications Minister Noel Dempsey TD, he said that the plan was to ensure that a minimum of 1MB worth of broadband would be available to the last 15pc of the nation and that any winning consortium would have to comply with a services level agreement (SLA).
By John Kennedy