A number of rural towns are to become Ireland’s fastest fibre broadband hotspots in the next two years, outgunning Dublin, Cork, Limerick and other Irish cities.
A new joint venture between telecoms firm Enet and energy company SSE is to connect 115,000 homes and businesses to fibre broadband that delivers speeds of 1,000Mbs, dwarfing existing broadband services.
The towns to get the service over the next two years include Ballinasloe, Roscommon Town, Manorhamilton, Bundoran, Ballyshannon, Donegal Town, Ballybofey, Stranorlar and Buncrana.
However, the service will only be available in communities already earmarked for another fibre broadband rollout from Eir, scheduled for completion next year.
And they will not be available to the 542,000 homes and businesses in rural areas earmarked for the state’s delayed National Broadband Plan rollout.
However, the €100m Enet-SSE move means that the rural towns included will now have two competing providers of separate fibre broadband networks, each capable of delivering 1,000Mbs speeds.
Eir’s own €200m fibre broadband rollout in the same areas means that the towns will shortly have broadband that is far faster than cities such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. Maximum broadband speeds in Irish cities are half what will be available in the rural towns.
The fibre network roll-out will connect 115,000 premises in two phases between now and 2019 and “will support around 700 contractor jobs at peak delivery” according to Enet-SSE.
“In the coming months, Enet-SSE crews will commence the first phase of deployment delivering the new fibre-to-the-premises broadband network to 18,000 premises in nine towns in the West and North West,” said a spokesman. “This first phase, which will complete within 12 months of commencement, will connect Ballinasloe, Roscommon Town, Manorhamilton, Bundoran, Ballyshannon, Donegal Town, Ballybofey, Stranorlar, and Buncrana to a superfast fibre broadband network in 2018. Upon successful completion of this phase, the remaining balance of the 115,000 premise network is expected to be completed by late 2019.”
Enet currently operates a number of metropolitan area networks around Ireland. The company is owned by Granahan McCourt Capital, the Dublin-based technology, media and telecommunications investment group.
Enet-SSE is a new commercial joint venture between Enet and SSE, Ireland’s second largest energy utility and a developer in clean energy infrastructure such as wind turbines. Wind turbines will not be used as infrastructure in the broadband rollout, said a spokesman for SSE.
“This investment is extremely positive news for regional Ireland and further evidence of our commitment to invest money where it matters to solve Ireland’s biggest connectivity needs, which are essential to future-proof its digital future,” said David McCourt, founder of Granahan McCourt Capital and chairman of enet. “By jointly deploying our expertise and combined resources, we will extend world class connectivity to some of the most underserved areas of the country.”
The launch was also welcomed by Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten.
“Today’s announcement is a significant boost for businesses and families in Ballinasloe and Roscommon Town and across the North West of the country,” he said. “I am determined, as Communications Minister, that every premises in Ireland can access high-speed broadband as quickly as possible through a combination of commercial and State-led investment. This roll-out will deliver world class superfast high speed broadband to 115,000 premises which will ensure communities are sustained and business can flourish in towns and rural Ireland.”
The move is a separate initiative to the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan, which seeks to connect every rural household and business in Ireland to fibre-level broadband speeds. Initially targeted for completion in 2021, a series of delays have meant that it is not likely to be finished before 2023 at the earliest.
Eir, Siro and Enet are the three bidders shortlisted for the taxpayer-funded rollout plan, which aims to provide 542,000 rural homes and businesses with fibre broadband.
These premises are currently cut off from broadband, with internet services that fail to offer access to everyday online facilities.
Recently-published government documents showed that the government fears the cost of funding this rollout could increase by up to 60pc because of a recent initiative by Eir to build its own rural network, separating the potentially profitable premises from the more expensive rural ones in the state’s broadband rollout map.
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