Tuesday 18 June 2019

Government rules out mobile broadband as alternative to fibre for National Broadband Plan

Energy Minister Richard Bruton (Michelle Devane/PA)
Energy Minister Richard Bruton (Michelle Devane/PA)
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The government has ruled out mobile broadband as an alternative to fibre for a state-backed National Broadband Plan rollout.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton says that a 4G or 5G mobile broadband network that covered all rural homes would require an extra 6,000 masts around the country in rural areas, double the amount currently in place.

He also said that it would take up to three times as long to build and that the quality would be significantly poorer than a fixed fibre service.

"A mobile 5G service is not a suitable alternative to fibre-to-the-home broadband, for many reasons as outlined by Comreg and others," Mr Bruton said in social media comments.

"Mobile coverage of 30mbs to 99.5pc of the country would require an additional 6,000 new masts around the country, would take over 10 years, would have insufficient capacity and [the] signal would be significantly affected by home insulation and hills."

Mr Bruton’s comments come amid criticism over the cost of the National Broadband Plan, expected to be around €3bn over 25 years. Some critics of the plan have suggested a 5G wireless or mobile broadband network instead, arguing that it may cost less to construct.

The National Broadband Plan is expected to go before the Cabinet next week.

Mr Bruton has indicated that he will recommend proceeding with the current bidder, Granahan McCourt. That consortium, led by businessman David McCourt, was the only remaining bidder for the contract after Eir and Siro -- a joint venture between Vodafone and the ESB -- backed out, citing a lack of interest in building the rural network.

If given the green light, the bulk of the network - which will reach 540,000 homes and businesses in mostly rural areas of the country - is expected to take three years to build.

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