A business sage once commented that if there’s a gap in the market, there’s a market in the gap. It’s possible that Irish Broadband’s managing director, Paul Doody, has never heard such a comment but it’s clear that in a broadband world dominated by bit rate DSL over traditional copper phone lines and ISDN, he knows that the ascendancy of wireless communications in Ireland over the next two years will enable him to drive a permanent wedge between these two traditional spheres of influence.
“More than 90pc of the Irish market is tied up between DSL and ISDN, and it’s no secret that they are overpriced and under-supplied,” says Doody.
Doody’s dislike of these traditional broadband services is understandable; his objective is to establish a new plateau of broadband services based on high-speed broadband over 2.4MHz frequencies. His company’s offering of 512kbps worth of uploads to every home for less than €35 for unlimited periods of time undercuts even the latest raft of offerings from Eircom and Esat BT. All that is required is proximity of within 5km to one of Irish Broadband’s base stations and a special wireless modem that plugs directly into a home computer or laptop. A user, he says, can be switched on and wireless within five minutes of opening the box.
“Our objective is to undercut the main telecom companies’ prices and deliver broadband much better than anybody else in the marketplace,” Doody declares boldly.
Irish Broadband is a wholly owned subsidiary of National Toll Roads (NTR). Over the past number of years, NTR has been working steadily in building up alternative public infrastructure businesses where it sees deficiencies in what is on offer to the Irish public through partaking in public private partnerships and is a major investor in operations such as Celtic Waste and Airtricity.
The Irish Broadband network is already up and running throughout south Dublin and the city centre and the company is in the process of rolling out services across north Dublin and surrounding counties. The company will also be rolling out its service in Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway over the coming months.
In recent weeks, the company unveiled its wireless broadband services for home and business users, which it claims represents a reduction in price by 61pc or some €232 on the average monthly bill compared to DSL and leased-line services.
Using easy-to-install wireless modem boxes that interact with base stations up to 12km away, Irish Broadband provides internet users with 512kbps upload and download speeds from €1.15 per day, enabling home users to pay on average €35 per month and business users up to €75 per month, based on its Ripwave wireless modem offering. A forthcoming system entitled Alvarian will enable Irish Broadband to offer businesses broadband speeds ranging from 1Mbps up to 5Mbps for around €250 per month.
The company has acquired a fibre optic STM-1 line as well as forging Tier 1 agreements with Cable & Wireless and Tiscali, he explained.
Doody explained that the company is in discussions with Bord Gáis, ESB and Chorus about implementing its base stations at specific locations throughout the country in order to speed up its regional spread as well as discussions with various local county councils. The company has already forged similar deals with RTÉ about hosting its base stations at strategic sites in Dublin.
“We are expecting a massive latent demand for broadband in Ireland once companies and businesses realise their disappointment with DSL and flat-rate internet access,” Doody said.
“Flat-rate internet access in particular is overrated,” he adds. “It’s the same dial-up service that has been around for the past several years. Only finally someone’s twigged establishing a set price of €30 month. Why spend that now when you can have broadband wirelessly for €35 a month or DSL for around €50?”
Doody’s colleague, technical director Jeremy Nel, says that in terms of business offerings the wireless technology used by Irish Broadband works well with virtual private network security technologies and in time will move to incorporate voice services. “This is essentially a 4G technology. We reckon the cost savings that businesses can achieve will speak for themselves. The average internet bill for a company is around €500 per month if they are using leased lines or ISDN. Using the wireless services a small to medium-sized enterprise can get the same amount of broadband for €50 a month. The numbers speak for themselves,” Nel concludes.
By John Kennedy
Pictured, from left, were Paul Doody, MD, Irish Broadband, Communications Minister Dermot Ahern TD and Jeremy Nel, technical director, Irish Broadband