Former monopoly operator Eircom has outlined plans to upgrade its network to provide up to 1.2 million Irish homes with ultra-high speed fibre broadband services, the Irish Independent reports. The plan will significantly boost internet access speeds across the Republic, with Eircom promising that more than 40% of households will be connected to a line with a minimum 70Mbps connection, while 27% of homes targeted under the plan will receive 10Mbps services. Currently, the incumbent’s broadband portfolio is limited to realistic speeds of less than 10Mbps outside its fibre-connected areas – lagging well behind Irish and European targets. The upgrade will help inch Ireland closer to the goals of the National Broadband Plan that has been set out by the Irish government.
Commenting on the plan, Eircom’s director of wholesale operations Carolan Lennon said that the telco is spearheading a drive to deploy this type of technology. ‘It means that by 2015, at least 42% of all homes in the country will get connectivity of 70Mbps.’ She went on to point out that the drive will see some 300 communities benefiting from faster broadband connectivity – several of which are currently outwith the service areas of rivals such as UPC Ireland. ‘It also means that by early next year, we’ll pass out UPC’s network in terms of fibre broadband availability in Ireland,’ Ms Lennon added, noting that the firm is already ‘up and running’ in a number of locations including Letterkenny, Castlebar and some other areas where rival fibre services are not available.
Critics point out however, that despite Eircom’s ambitious plans it may struggle to close the digital divide in Ireland that is affecting large parts of the rural countryside. It is estimated that around 400,000 Irish homes are currently blighted with what has been described as ‘crawling’ internet access speeds, despite Dublin’s pledge to connect every household with a 30Mbps connection by end-2014. Here, industry analysts have been critical of the government’s budget fund of EUR175 million (USD237 million), which they feel falls far short of the monies that will be needed.