Sunday 15 September 2019

Enet boss says farmers for Eir a case of 'premature articulation'

Enet boss Conal Henry warns of ‘re-monopolisation’ danger
Enet boss Conal Henry warns of ‘re-monopolisation’ danger

Michael Cogley

Rolling out the Government's National Broadband Plan (NBP) carries a risk of "re-monopolisation" of infrastructure if not handled correctly, the chief executive of fibre network Enet has warned.

Irish company Enet is one of three bidders, along with Eir and the ESB Vodafone tie-up Siro, still in the running for a tender to roll out the project.

"There's only going to be one network. It's really important that whoever owns and run that network gives everybody equal access to it," Enet head Conal Henry told the Irish Independent said.

Despite being the smaller of the players left in the race, a slew of institutional backers means access to capital won't pose a threat to Enet, he said.

The firm has access to "hundreds of millions" of available capital through its backers 3i, John Laing, which is chaired by ex-Eircom boss Phil Nolan, and Warren Buffet's energy outfit Berkshire Hathaway Energy, he said. The firm's shareholder, David McCourt's GMC, also provides access to capital, he said.

In September the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) backed Eir's bid for the national network in a move that reportedly infuriated Vodafone.

Mr Henry expressed his surprise at the IFA move.

"I think they might have had a dose of premature articulation. We haven't asked the farmers to back us, we haven't met with the farmers yet because I don't think it's clear enough in terms of product, price, solution, rollout that the farmers know what they're backing, which is why we haven't asked them," he said.

Enet has a "separate organisation" within the company working exclusively on the NBP, with Chinese walls between it and the rest of the business, Mr Henry said.

The specialist NBP team is working out of the company's old offices in The Exchange building in Dublin's IFSC and will soon move to GMC's new offices in Merrion Square.

Enet has been running an open-access rural broadband network for 12 years and believes the backers it has secured will make it the best option for the Government.

The Dublin based company is also planning to take its internet bidding beyond Ireland, and will tender for public projects in the likes of Italy and Poland.

Enet has carried out a pilot programme in rural North Kerry, which involved the construction of 25km of network.

Since its deployment in January the €650,000 project now supports over 350 premises, 95pc of which are residential.

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