Date set for revealing winner of broadband rollout process
The Government intends to announce the winner of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) on September 16, the Sunday Independent understands.
The government insists that the plagued project, which has pledged to roll out high-speed broadband to 540,000 rural homes and businesses, remains on track despite the recent departure of electrical utility giant SSE from the shortlisted bidding consortium led by Enet.
Last week, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, announced that a contract with Enet is on course to be struck in September.
The Sunday Independent has learned that the announcement is planned for September 16.
This could allow construction work to begin on the network early next year, with the majority of the rollout completed by the end of 2021.
Sources close to the process say that SSE's departure has not had the freezing effect on Enet's construction plans as critics charge. They say that it is unlikely the Government will need to consider a return to the drawing board or a considerable delay to proceedings.
It is also understood that Imagine, the company controlled by veteran telecoms entrepreneur Sean Bolger, intends to return to the National Broadband Plan process. The company, which was eliminated from the state-subsidised content at an early stage, is said to be pitching its wireless technology as a solution to connecting the more isolated rural homes.
The government has said that the "vast majority" of the 540,000 home network will be based on running fibre lines directly into the rural premises. However, it has admitted that a minority of premises may be too difficult or expensive to physically connect, with a high-speed wireless service taking the place of a fibre line. Imagine has invested heavily in wireless broadband technology, having acquired special 5G-friendly mobile and broadband spectrum in ComReg's 2017 bandwidth auction.
Enet's consortium, which also includes specialist investor John Laing, is due to submit final details of its proposal by the end of the month. The cost is expected to be around €1bn.
Sunday Indo Business