Saturday 19 October 2019

Wireless operators pitch €400m alternative rural broadband rollout

Stock image (Yui Mok/PA)
Stock image (Yui Mok/PA)
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

A lobby group representing fixed wireless operators claims that an alternative rural broadband network made up of masts and roof aerials could cost as little as €400m to construct.

In a submission to TDs, the Regional Internet Service Providers Association say that a looser network made up of services provided by their own members would save the public purse while delivering broadband in excess of 100 megabits per second (Mbs).

The organisation, which represents 13 regional broadband operators, says that its solution could be done without the thousands of masts needed for a 5G rollout.

However, it says that an additional loan fund for its member operators of €500m would be required and that the number of homes to be serviced through the scheme would be substantially less than the 540,000 targeted under the state’s intervention plan.

Rispa says that only 267,000 of the homes identified are in need of direct state intervention, with the rest being served by existing operators.

“Rispa believes that the Irish 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 lobby group’s proposal. “A failure to properly explore Rispa’s recommendations will likely result in the Irish State spending far more money than it needs to in its attempt to solve the Country’s connectivity gap.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Communications said that no proposal has been submitted to the government on the issue.

However, government officials have 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.

Rispa and individual wireless providers have consistently been critical of any fixed line state-subsidised broadband rollout in rural areas, claiming that it puts their members’ livelihood at risk.

Fixed wireless broadband firms typically offer broadband speeds that match some DSL copper telephone line services, but are far below those possible from fibre lines.

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