Friday 24 November 2017

Coming to a town near you - Eir to speed up fibre broadband roll-out nationwide

Eir said 800 people are now working on the country's largest telecoms infrastructure programme
Eir said 800 people are now working on the country's largest telecoms infrastructure programme
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Eir is to speed up its fibre broadband roll-out to 300,000 rural premises around the country.

The company now says that it will complete its fibre-to-the-premises rural rollout by the end of 2018, a year ahead of schedule.

The move comes as the state’s National Broadband Plan faces another delay, with government now saying that construction of the scheme may not start until late 2017, over a year after its planned introduction.

Eir formally opened availability of its first rural 1,000 fibre-to-the-home premises this week, with households in Youghal (Cork), Athboy (Meath), Virginia (Cavan), Ballyfarnan (Roscommon) and Killinick (Wexford) now able to order the 1,000Mbs service. The company now has a footprint of 36,000 homes and businesses across the country able to receive direct fibre broadband, according to a spokesman. Its main competitor, Siro, has close to 30,000 such fibre-compatible homes and businesses.

Fibre-to-the-premises broadband differs from landline broadband in that it does not depend on local telephone exchanges, cabinets or line tests. It operates at up to ten time faster than conventional landline broadband.

Under the National Broadband Plan, 927,000 homes and businesses in rural areas and on the fringes of towns are targeted to receive a broadband connection of at least 30Mbs. A public-private contract is to be contested between three short-listed bidders, Eir, Vodafone and eNet. The government has said that the buildout will take between three and five years from the date of commencement.

However, the process has been beset by delays. The scheme was due to begin construction this year but was put back until June of next year due to administrative difficulties. Now the government warning of further delays to the project.

“We will hopefully be rolling out the contract in the second half of next year,” said Minister Naughten. “We hope at the end of next year that you will be able to put your Eircode on our website and you will know when you’re getting your broadband.”

Such a delay in commencing the rural broadband buildout could see some homes and businesses waiting until 2023 to see modern communications systems arrive in their areas.

By then, Ireland’s state-funded broadband infrastructure may be out of date, with a new push by the European Union to set 100Mbs as a continent-wide standard, over three times the 30Mbs speed being promised by the government under the current plan.

A recent survey from Amarach Research suggests that one in four rural residents would consider leaving their areas to go to a city because of a lack of broadband. Almost half of households outside towns report insufficient speeds to perform ordinary tasks, while one in five now say that they have to leave home to access the internet.

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