Shannon Development has called for the urgent rollout of a €4bn telecommunications infrastructure nationwide, claiming the lack of such a network will deter foreign investors.
Chief executive Kevin Thompstone stated: “To be truly competitive in the knowledge economy, Ireland urgently needs to have ultra high-speed broadband available in every part of the country. Clients from major international corporations will not wait a few years for the private sector to provide what is a vital piece of public communications infrastructure, they will simply vote with their feet and invest elsewhere.”
Thompstone said a brave decision is needed to invest in NGN (next-generation network) broadband infrastructure ahead of demand if Ireland is to tackle international competition. He advocated that the Government should start with a national NGN pilot project and recommended Shannon town as a good choice to act as the pilot location.
“While economic growth in Ireland is still high, in comparison to many of our European counterparts, we need to ensure that we are battle-fit to meet the growing pressures of globalisation. One initiative which offers Ireland an opportunity to both catch up with and leap ahead of other parts of the world in relation to pervasive broadband access is the development of a national NGN. One of the key elements of NGN is that broadband is delivered not just to a town via a fibre ring but direct to enterprise and the home by means of fibre to the door.”
Shannon Development released its end-of-year statement for 2007 yesterday, outlining that €7m had been committed to e-towns development and €12m had been invested in broadband infrastructure for eight towns in the Shannon Region.
One of Shannon Development’s key projects during 2007 saw the company establish Ireland’s first e-town development in Milltown Malbay, Co Clare. Three other towns have been earmarked for e-town status and consultation is taking place to add to this tally in the future. The company has committed €7m to this initiative to date, with construction work on a site in Tarbert, Co Kerry due to begin in mid 2008.
The provision of broadband connectivity throughout the Shannon Region is a key priority, Shannon Development said.
“Shannon Development continued to demonstrate leadership and action and accelerated a number of its key strategies to develop a counter-pole to the east coast,” Thompstone remarked. “The company performed well despite a difficult operating environment, and its sharpened regional focus yielded dividends for the Shannon Region.
“2008 will undoubtedly hold challenges for every sector of the Irish economy. In this testing business environment, Shannon Development will continue to pioneer initiatives and strategies to ensure that the Shannon Region is equipped to meet the future needs of investors, visitors and people.”
Some key investments by Shannon Development in five business parks in the region during 2007 spurred job creation. Some 151 jobs were created in the National Technology Park in Limerick as a result of three foreign direct investment companies locating there, aided by Shannon Development and IDA Ireland.
More than 60 people were employed in seven companies in Birr Technology Park during the year, while total employment in Kerry Technology Park increased to 250. InnovationWorks Information Age Park Ennis had a total of 44 employees by year end while Tipperary Technology Park had over 100 people employed.
By Niall Byrne