Wednesday 17 January 2018

ESB to allow operators use electricity grid for fibre broadband

02/12/2013 Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte T.D during the launch of a public consultation process for the development of a new Digital Strategy for Schools at the Department of Education & Skills, Marlborough Street, Dublin.
Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
02/12/2013 Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte T.D during the launch of a public consultation process for the development of a new Digital Strategy for Schools at the Department of Education & Skills, Marlborough Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

THE GOVERNMENT will publish a bill today to allow mobile phone operators use the national electricity grid to deliver fibre-power broadband.

The bill will allow phone networks like Vodafone and O2 to piggyback on the electricity grid to deliver their services.

It will also further the ESB's plans to develop its own wholesale telecoms provider. It is currently looking for a joint venture partner to do this, but first needed permission to use the electricity grid for these purposes.

The Department of Communications, which spearheaded the bill, said the move should cut costs associated with broadband.

The bill falls in line with European Commission proposals which call for water, electricity and gas companies to share networks with telecoms firms to cut the cost of creating high-speed broadband networks.

The Commission estimates digging up streets to lay fibre accounts for up to 80pc of the cost of deploying new networks.

European officials fear that debt-laden telecom operators' slow pace of investment is saddling the region with weak infrastructure that could hobble its already recession-wracked economies. The construction in Europe of fibre networks lags far behind Asia and some parts of the US. Europe had 5.95 million fibre broadband customers by mid-2012, a fraction of the more than 58 million subscribers in Asia.

"Everyone deserves fast broadband. I want to burn the red tape that is stopping us for getting there" said European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes earlier this year.

Despite this, the EU has also cut funding for broadband rollouts. EU budget cuts cut such funding for rural projects to just €1bn from €9.2bn.

Another major obstacle has been the patchwork of regulations in Europe on how telcos must share access to ducts and lines into homes, the cost of such line rentals, and also the technology deployed.

Added to this are the fears of Europe's debt-laden operators such as Telefonica and Telecom Italia, who are wary of ploughing billions into fibre which will take decades to pay off.

Irish Independent

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