EU target of 100Mbs may need new tender, NBI chief says
A second National Broadband-style scheme may be needed to get more homes and businesses up to speeds the EU says are needed to future-proof infrastructure.
At least 100,000 Irish homes that did not qualify for the State-subsidised National Broadband Plan (NBP) have broadband service below the EU's target speed of 100Mbs by 2025.
The National Broadband Plan only connects households under 30Mbs.
“If there was another tender, certainly it's something we could look at,” said Peter Hendrick, chief executive of National Broadband Ireland (NBI).
“Under the European Commission’s digital agenda, there's going to be another assessment between now and 2025,” said Mr Hendrick. “By 2025, [the Government] and other European governments have to have given another commitment for 100 megabits per second, or else there possibly needs to be another intervention.”
A spokesman for Communications Minister Eamon Ryan declined to comment on the matter.
However, Mr Ryan has been critical of some broadband provision in Ireland, describing the country's largest operator, Eir, as “shocking poor” in its customer service. Most broadband households stuck between 30Mbs and 100Mbs are on Eir’s network service.
Other senior industry executives declined to comment publicly on the possibility of a second NBP tender, with one describing it as “aspirational”.
However, the European Commission recently reinforced its request for countries to adopt 100Mbs for all citizens.
“All Member States are encouraged to endorse their targets and adapt their national broadband strategies to the new targets,” according to its broadband policy document. “State aid guidelines help Member States achieving the Digital Single Market strategy aims.”
Commercial broadband operators such as Eir, Siro and Virgin say that they plan to upgrade more ‘in-fill’ premises that are currently not in the National Broadband Plan’s intervention area because they are deemed to receive a service of over 30Mbs.
Executives estimate that there will still be at least 100,000 households caught between 30Mbs and 100Mbs.
Last month, TDs berated NBI and Eir executives for constituents missing out on full-speed fibre rollouts.
Mr Hendrick said that the first trial connections under the current NBP rollout will be put in place this week, with operators to begin selling the services from January 25th.