Monday 5 December 2016

Delay in rollout of state subsidised broadband plan - but 'fibre-to-home' on the way

Published 11/10/2016 | 17:36

Minister for Communications Communications, Energy & Natural Resources Denis Naughten TD speaking to media following Budget 2017 at Government Press CeNtre, on Merrion Street, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Communications Communications, Energy & Natural Resources Denis Naughten TD speaking to media following Budget 2017 at Government Press CeNtre, on Merrion Street, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

The government has signalled a further delay to the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan, but says that the rural rollout will now consist of a fibre-to-the-home solution.

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Communications Minister Denis Naughten said that he would not be “fixed” on the commencement of the scheme, which was originally due to see construction start this year before an announced delay until June of 2017.

Industry sources now believe construction will start in 2018, meaning some homes and businesses may not see connections until 2023.

But Minister Naughten said that the rural roll-out will now use fibre-to-the-home “as the predominant solution”.

“This will means speeds of one gigabyte, giving Ireland a huge competitive advantage,” he said. “It would place Ireland as the first country in the world to have one gigabyte throughout and it will completely reverse the urban-rural divide.”

On further delays to the rollout, Minister Naughten said: “This is an intensive, complex process. It's important we don't run something just to get it out the door. There have been additional complexities to make sure local providers can avail of the infrastructure.”

Minister for Communications Communications, Energy & Natural Resources Denis Naughten TD speaking to media following Budget 2017 at Government Press CeNtre, on Merrion Street, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Communications Communications, Energy & Natural Resources Denis Naughten TD speaking to media following Budget 2017 at Government Press CeNtre, on Merrion Street, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

He said that the tender contract will award points based on the speed of rollout of of the scheme.

The rural network will be privatised after its 25 year contract is up, a move calculated to keep initial rollout costs down and allow the state to spend up to €600m on other projects.

Most of the premises targeted under the scheme will see their broadband connection materialise in the first two years of the contract, according to the government. However, almost half may have to wait until 2020 to see any progress.

Minister Naughten said that the government was also making progress in improving mobile phone reception around the country.

“Later this week, I'm signing the order to allow for the auction of 3.6mhz spectrum,” he said. “This will result in 86pc extra capacity for wireless broadband. By 2019, we'll have tripled capacity for mobile and wireless broadband.”

“We will also soon have some planning exemptions antennae and masts, which is part of a process of updating the planning guidelines.”

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