More than half a million premises in 50 towns across the Republic of Ireland will get access to a new FTTP network promising speeds of up to a gigabit, after Vodafone signed an agreement with sustainable energy practice ESB to pump €450m (£358m) into the project.
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With ESB’s help, the fibre network will lever Ireland’s existing electricity infrastructure to bring fibre directly into homes and businesses, which Vodafone claims will ensure a faster and more cost-efficient deployment.
“Over the last ten years ESB has invested over €6bn in its electricity network infrastructure nationally, ensuring it is one of the most robust and modern electricity networks in the world thus enabling the delivery of this new fibre broadband network,” said ESB chief exec Pat O’Doherty.
ComReg, the Irish equivalent of Ofcom, claims 43% of fixed broadband customers in Ireland get speeds of under 10Mbps at present, and the regulator is keen to redress this balance and the digital divide that has sprung up between Dublin and the rest of the country.
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The regulator talked up benefits for enterprises and SMEs operating in rural parts of Ireland, as well as consumer services such as e-health or virtual education.
“With the number of devices per household anticipated to almost double over the next four years and more bandwidth-hungry services being developed, this new broadband service will enable a whole range of new services to be offered to Irish ctpustomers in the future from entertainment, security, teleworking to web-based gaming or home automation,” said Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary.
“Vodafone has the best mobile network in Ireland and now this joint venture will bring the best broadband service to Ireland,” she added.
Subject to European Commission approval, the network will be fully rolled out by the end of 2018, with first deployments expected in early 2015, with other telecoms operators in the country also able to re-sell fibre products.
Irish government minister for communications, energy and natural resources, Pat Rabbitte, said the initiative meant Ireland would be able to position itself “as a front runner” in terms of tackling the high-speed broadband deficit.
Rabbitte added that the government would commit to balancing the commercial investment with a more wide-ranging intervention plan – similar to BDUK – in deep rural areas.