Enet to go it alone in post-SSE rural NBP broadband rollout
Enet is to forge ahead with a plan to build out a State-subsidised rural broadband network under the National Broadband Plan (NBP) without a new partner to replace the energy utility company SSE.
The Irish Independent understands that the consortium has hired a number of senior international telecoms experts to oversee the network rollout to 542,000 rural homes and businesses, effectively replacing SSE's role in the huge network build.
These include senior executives from Rogers, Canada's largest telecoms company.
SSE, a UK utilities giant that joined forces with Enet last year, was to be Enet's main partner in building out the network under Enet's NBP bid, which is being finalised in the coming weeks. However, SSE parted ways with Enet in recent months, announcing its exit in the last two weeks.
The Enet-SSE split also resulted in the cancellation of a plan between the two companies to build 115,000 fibre broadband connections to nine regional towns in the West of Ireland.
Eir, which had been a potential replacement for SSE, was not approached about taking up SSE's role in the State-backed bid.
Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the NBP process was still expected to proceed on schedule, despite the departure of SSE from the bidding process.
With no further hiccups, this would mean shovels in the next six months if Enet's final bid is accepted by the Department of Communications.
The Government has not yet indicated how much it expects the NBP rollout to cost, although industry analysts expect it to be in the region of €1bn to €1.5bn.
If successful in its bid, Enet will get a 25-year contract to build and run the wholesale rural fibre broadband network, with ownership of the utility reverting to it at the end of the 25 year period.
If it wants to proceed with its current time frame, the Government has little choice but to accept Enet's bid, with other major contenders for the contract having withdrawn from the process in the last 12 months.
The process is due to be completed in 2023, with the majority of rural premises to be connected by 2021.