Rural broadband firms deny their €400m plan 'too good to be true'
Wireless broadband operators have told TDs they could roll out a high-speed rural service with a total of just 20 new masts at a cost of €400m as an alternative to the National Broadband Plan.
Marcus Matthews, chairman of the Regional Internet Service Provider Association (Rispa), told members of an Oireachtas Committee on Communications that fixed wireless operators would not require the estimated 6,000 masts needed to cover the country with 5G broadband.
Instead, he said, his members would only need to build between 20 and 30 new masts to cover the whole country.
Asked by TDs whether his claim was "too good to be true", Mr Matthews said local wireless internet firms had been providing access in rural areas for 20 years.
He said he "could not understand" why the Department of Communications had not opted for this approach or considered it as a serious alternative.
The Rispa proposal would require €400m in subsidies from the Government together with an additional loan fund of €500m for its member operators.
"Rispa believes that the Government should at a minimum halt the current procurement process so that it can comprehensively evaluate the recommendations that the organisation has outlined before deciding whether to proceed with the NBP proposal," said the Rispa proposal.
A spokesperson for the Department of Communications said no proposal had been submitted to the Government on the issue.
It has previously rejected arguments from the fixed wireless operators as lacking the qualifying criteria on quality and reliability required under the State's long-term broadband plans.