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Taoiseach admits one in ten won’t have proper broadband by 2025 as Siro announces €620m investment

The joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone will expand its reach to 770,000 homes in 154 towns.

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Siro will invest €620m in expanding its network

Siro will invest €620m in expanding its network

Siro will invest €620m in expanding its network

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that half a million people, or 10pc of the population, will still not have access to high speed broadband by 2025.

The stark admission comes as thousands of rural residents have reacted with dismay to notifications from the National Broadband Plan that they will not be connected until 2025 or 2026.

“90pc of the population will have access to high speed broadband within the next four years,” said the Taoiseach, speaking today at an event to announce a €620m fibre broadband expansion from Siro, the joint venture between Vodafone and the ESB.

”We are currently working on a new digital strategy setting out our ambition to make Ireland a digital leader.”

The Taoiseach praised the Siro expansion, which will not provide an alternative to the National Broadband Plan but will expand Siro’s broadband footprint into 154 towns, reaching 770,000 premises.

The Siro move, which is backed by €170m from the European Investment Bank and a syndicate of Irish and international lenders, in an increase of 320,000 homes on the company’s original 450,000 target. It will take an estimated four years to roll out. The joint venture’s fibre network is currently available to 400,000 premises in the country.

The company says that the new investment will bring the total spent on the network to over €1bn.

Siro, Vodafone and the ESB have not disclosed how much they are putting up as part of the €620m. However, the company says that there is no equity stake for the investors, which are comprised of banks and financial firms.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Siro CEO John Keaney said that some of the impetus for investing in the expansion was because expectations of broadband have moved beyond pre-Covid norms.

“When the government was setting its broadband targets a few years ago, 30Mbs was considered to be fine,” he said. “But now, it’s not really adequate. Most of the people on our network are using much faster speeds of at least 500Mbs.”

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Mr Keaney said that Siro is currently making enough money to fund its own operations and said that the joint venture had become “Ebidta positive” a year ago.

He also said that the use of Huawei equipment as part of the expanded rollout was not considered to be a security risk.

“It’s really positive that this additional investment in SIRO fibre broadband will allow more communities and businesses to benefit from high speed connections,” said the ESB’s CEO, Paddy Hayes.

Vodafone Ireland CEO, Anne O’Leary, said: “it has never been more important to advance critical digital infrastructure that supports business transformation and connected communities to embed longer-term societal resilience. COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to re-imagine what is possible and to accelerate digital transformation for citizens, communities, business and future proof our economy. The last 18 months have proven how crucial connectivity is to this.”

Christian Kettel Thomsen, vice president of the European Investment Bank, said: “accelerating access to broadband communications is crucial to harness the environmental, economic and social benefits of digitalisation. The European Investment Bank is pleased to provide €170 million backing for expansion of Siro as part of our support for digital investment. This cooperation between Irish and international partners will enable 2.1 million people across Ireland to access high-speed internet in the years ahead.”


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