Ireland’s next big thing – Govt commits extra €5m to Exemplar Network

15 Jul 2010

Exactly a year on, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan TD has committed a further €5m to the next two phases of the Exemplar Network which will see the Exemplar Network grow from circling Dublin in the second phase to being a nationwide entity by the third phase in 2013.

Ryan said the first phase of the Exemplar Network, in which the State invested €10m with Intune Networks, has already created 140 jobs and that by the time of the third phase thousands of jobs, from digital media to high-end computing, green tech and life sciences, could be created as organisations will be attracted by the speed and capability of the network.

The first phase of the Exemplar Network, the Exemplar Testbed, located at Intune’s headquarters in Park West in Dublin, has a capacity of 2.5 terabytes – remarkable when you consider that this is twice the volume of traffic that the current London phone system carries.

The network heralds an era of virtualisation of fibre networks, using colour coding to enable multiple fibre providers to serve businesses and homes, often on a single strand of fibre. Intune Networks, formed in 1999 by a group of ex-UCD photonics researchers, has developed a technology that can enable a single strand of fibre to move from carrying one signal from one operator to carrying data from 80 telecoms and TV companies all at once.

Organisations drawn to Exemplar Network

Today, it emerged that already 30 international companies and research bodies have expressed an interest in testing new products on the network, including BT, Imagine, EMC, Celtix Connect, IBM, ESB Telecom, Opennet, Firecomms, DCU, UCD, NUI Galway, UCC Tyndall and Science Foundation Ireland.

The second phase of the Exemplar Network, which kicks off in 2011, will consist of an active test ring around the Dublin metropolitan area. Organisations will be able to deploy their products to the market and test them in real-life scenarios. This will particularly involve major universities and research groups from the global and local technology and telecoms industries.

The final layer of the network, Phase 3, will kick off in 2013 and will be complete by 2020. This will exist as a national network for R&D or could also be used as a next-generation optical network that would be open to all carriers.

“The Exemplar Network will represent a quantum leap in the handling of data,” Ryan said this morning. “The price of data traffic will be coming down while speeds increase, so we need a quantum leap to overcome bottlenecks.”

Ryan said the potential of the technology to be severely disruptive is guaranteed and of global consequence. “Remember, this was a technology designed in Dublin, built in Cork and is an appropriate leap forward for the global internet, providing open access that is local to everyone.

“There is huge potential in creating jobs through a technology that we developed here in this city, and companies and research bodies will come here to test and develop on it. The reason why we made this investment was to give real confidence and point out that we have this capability and we have skills that are world class.

“This is also a green technology – it is capable of carrying twice the volume of traffic that London phone systems carry.

“We stand on the cusp of creating a high quality, world-leading infrastructure that could create thousands of new jobs,” Ryan said.

Venture capital investment raised by Intune

Intune has in the past year raised more than €25m in venture capital investment, including a €22m round led by Dermot Desmond and Kernel Capital, as well as recently a €3m round led by Novusmodus. Intune co-founder John Dunne told Siliconrepublic that the company now has 33 patents.

The company recently expanded into the US, with the opening of a Boston office and was awarded a major EU contract as part of a consortium involving telecom players Telefónica and PrimeTel under the EU 7th Framework.

Exactly a year ago, Ryan, at the publication of six-point action plan for the smart economy, contracted Intune to trial its technology here first before it hits mass manufacture. The solution – the Exemplar Network – could sort out the country’s broadband woes and catapult Ireland to the cutting edge of telecoms before anybody else. The move will grow Intune from 100 workers in Dublin and Belfast today to employing an additional 300 people over the next three years.

Intune CEO Tim Fritzley said he believes the Exemplar Network could help transform Ireland from a manufacturing and agricultural society to a high-end purveyor of ICT. “One of the biggest telecoms carriers in the world could come here and build a proprietary closed lab. But now, by having a facility like this Ireland could become an open place for the global carriers to base their labs. This will be a magnet for creating the jobs of the future.”

Watch a video on how the disruptive Exemplar Network technology can pave the way for thousands of jobs, and save the internet!: icon: launch video

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years