A SIGNIFICANT upgrade to the Eircom network will give high-powered broadband to 1.2 million Irish homes.
The improved landline system will make fibre broadband of up to 100 megabits available to some communities for the first time. The broadband boost is part of a new programme of network upgrades that will see the operator introduce higher speeds around the country.
Under the plan, almost half of all Irish homes and businesses will now be connected to broadband of over 70Mbs over ordinary landlines, while 27pc of all Irish homes will get 100Mbs.
This compares to speeds of under 10Mbs which are currently being delivered outside of fibre-connected areas in Ireland. These speeds are far below Irish and European targets. The additional broadband speeds, powered by the introduction of technology called vectoring, could see Ireland inch closer to targets set out by the Government under its National Broadband Plan.
"We're one of the first operators in Europe to roll out this kind of technology," said Eircom's director of wholesale operations, Carolan Lennon. "It means that by 2015, at least 42pc of all homes in the country will get connectivity of 70Mbs."
Ms Lennon said that 300 "communities" would see the benefits of the faster broadband, some of which are outside high-speed broadband areas served by rivals such as UPC.
"It also means that by early next year, we'll pass out UPC's network in terms of fibre broadband availability in Ireland," she said. "We're already up and running in areas such as Letterkenny, Castlebar and other areas where rival fibre services are not available. That will continue."
However, the Eircom plan may not address the intensifying digital divide affecting large parts of rural Ireland. At present, more than 400,000 Irish homes will remain stuck with crawling basic internet access.
The Government has pledged to connect every home to fibre-speed broadband services of 30Mbs by the end of next year.
However, senior telecom industry figures believe that the Government's allocated capital investment plan of €175m falls far short of the sum required.
Ms Lennon said the faster services will be free of charge to existing and new Eircom customers. She also said rival operators that use Eircom's landline network would not be charged to access the new higher speeds.