Sunday 18 March 2018

Over half of Irish businesses stuck on sub-standard broadband services

High-speed broadband is as essential as electricity for many businesses (Stock picture)
High-speed broadband is as essential as electricity for many businesses (Stock picture)
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Over half of Irish businesses are stuck on sub-standard broadband services, new figures show.

The telecom regulator's latest statistics reveal that over 50pc of Irish companies have broadband services advertised at under 10Mbs, which does not allow them to perform many work tasks.

And the figures also show that long-suffering residential broadband customers are also having to make do with Internet packages that preclude them from accessing everyday online services. In all, almost a third of homes with broadband cannot get speeds of over 10Mbs, according to the regulator.

The new statistics may understate the broadband deficit around the country, as the advertised speeds it refers to often exceed actual speeds available. The reported speeds also relate to fixed speeds, which reduce significantly when wifi is used to access the broadband service.

Comreg's figures, included in its latest quarterly report, say that 83pc of Irish homes and businesses have access to some sort of Internet service. However, a huge chunk cannot get modern broadband speeds because of the lack of up-to-date offerings ion the market.

The new figures come after a recent report by the European Commission said that prices for fixed broadband in Ireland are almost double the EU average when measured as a proportion of income. In terms of cost, fixed broadband prices in Ireland went up, putting Ireland in 23rd place out of the 28, according to the Commission.

“The digital skills of the population exhibit significant gaps, with only 44pc of the population having sufficient digital skills to operate effectively online,” said the European Commission. “This places [Ireland] 22nd out of 28 countries for this indicator. The EU average is 55pc.”

However, Irish firms that do get access to high speed broadband are performing above EU standards.

The European Commission ranks Ireland first of 28 EU countries at incorporating technology at work, a jump from third place last year. Ireland scores especially well in eCommerce and online sales compared to EU rivals with the Commission finding that a third (32pc) of Irish small to medium sized businesses sell products or services online. This twice the average among European small businesses, which stands at just 16pc.

Similarly, Irish small and medium sized businesses record 19pc of turnover from eCommerce activities, compared to an average of 9pc of turnover across the rest of the EU.

And Ireland also tops the European tables when it comes to selling online across borders, with 16pc of small and medium sized firms trading on the internet with cross-border business partners. This compares to a European average of just 7.5pc.

The Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, recently confirmed that the government does not expect to complete its state-subsidised rural broadband rollout until 2022.

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