Tuesday 15 October 2019

Imagine intends to bring high-speed broadband to one million rural homes within 18 months

New rollout will cover 400,000 of 540,000 rural homes to be covered by NBP - Bolger

Sean Bolger, CEO, Imagine. (Photo: Adrian Weckler)
Sean Bolger, CEO, Imagine. (Photo: Adrian Weckler)
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The wireless broadband company Imagine has announced that it intends to bring high-speed broadband to one million homes across Ireland within 18 months.

The company’s chief executive, Sean Bolger, said that the new network will cost €300m to build. It will be based on 325 sites using masts that connect to antennae played on the outside of a home.

The rollout has begun already, Bolger said, with 155 broadband transmission sites to be live by June of this year followed by another 170 sites live by June 2020.

Bolger said that the service would offer a 150Mbs broadband connection for €60 per month and a €150 set-up fee but no data cap.

However, he said that the service will be initially restricted to between 300 and 400 homes per location, expandable as demand increases.

The new rollout is aimed at non-urban areas and will cover 400,000 of the 540,000 rural homes to be covered by the National Broadband Plan, Bolger said.

Bolger told Independent.ie that he did not anticipate legal conflict with the government over the National Broadband Plan rollout, even though state aid rules forbid publicly funded services where a private operator offers them.

However, Bolger refused to rule out action if the current NBP continues in its current form.

“Despite announcements of investments of over €1.2bn over the last five years and the promise of the rollout of 'Fibre to the Home', by the end of the third quarter of last year, only 75,000 customers have been actually connected,” he said.

“This is not a problem that is unique to Ireland, the reality is that rolling out fibre to every home is a lot more expensive and takes a lot more time than people expected and will take years to deliver even in urban areas, let alone rural areas.

"As an Irish company, we are delighted to announce this significant investment and a new approach which will finally solve this problem and deliver much needed, fast and reliable high-speed broadband to homes, businesses and communities across regional and rural Ireland, today and into the future.”

Read more: Imagine closes in on $180m deal for broadband rollout

The Imagine launch comes after Eir pledged a new nationwide fibre-to-the-home Broadband rollout that it says will reach 1.7m homes within the next five years. The former incumbent says that it will have 335,000 rural homes connected to 'Fibre to the Home' broadband by June of this year.

Meanwhile, the Department Of Communications is still deciding whether or not to proceed to a ‘preferred bidder’ status with Granahan McCourt, the telecoms consortium which is the only remaining bidder in the government’s National Broadband Plan process.

A decision on this has been waited on for almost four months. Sources close to the process say that it’s still “weeks” away, although there is a possibility of a formal decision by the end of February.

If ‘preferred bidder’ status is conferred upon Granahan McCourt, the government and that company will then move to sign a contract for the 25-year deal.

This will see the government commit to subsidising the build out of a (mostly) fibre broadband network to the ‘intervention area’ of 540,000 homes and businesses in mostly rural areas. At the end of the 25 year period, the company gets to keep the rural network.

“Our experience on the ground and during the trial is that people have grown very cynical of the continuous announcements and empty promises,” said Bolger.

“Actually turning up, delivering what we promised and meeting customers’ expectations was a key factor in the success of the commercial pilot.”

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