POSTCODES will be in place by the first half of next year, giving each home and business in the State a unique seven-digit number.
The Department of Communications has produced a detailed timeline of when the codes will be introduced, saying that work designing the system will be completed by the end of March, with much of the rest of this year spent building and testing the system.
The move comes after the Government last October approved plans to launch a new postcode system, which would be the first in the world to have an individual code attached to every property in the State.
Work on the project first began in 2010, and in August 2011 the then president signed into law the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Act 2011, which allowed the Minister for Communications to enter into a contract with an outside agency to develop the system.
A consortium headed by Capita Ireland was approved by the Government at a cabinet meeting in October to oversee the work, and it will operate the system for 10 years, which can be extended up to 15 years.
The postcodes will be owned by the State.
Now, tenders are being sought from companies to help design the system and test it before it goes live in 2015.
A detailed timeline says the next three months will be used to refine the sources of information used to generate the postcodes, including working with An Post, public sector bodies and GeoDirectory, which holds data on individual properties.
A public relations and communications strategy will also be developed.
From April, the system will be built and tested until the end of the year, while the first three months of 2015 will involve publishing information on the system, including the postcodes linked to individual properties.
Information will be provided to the public through a website and contact centre, and it will go live in the first half of next year.
Most EU countries have had postcodes since the 1990s, and the new system will provide a seven-digit number for every letter box in the State. The first three digits will relate to the postal district, with the next four referencing the individual property.
The data will be used by services including satellite navigation, where the postcode rather than the address will be entered into the system, and route planners such as that operated by the AA and online retailers.
The system will go live in the first half of 2015, tender documents state.
The successful bidders are required to advise and support the Government on technical issues, oversee the creation of the database and oversee the public information campaign.
At least 225 days' work will be required over the next two years. Tenders must be submitted by February 13, and bidding companies must have an annual turnover of at least €500,000 a year. The project will be overseen by an official at the Department of Communications.