The Irish government plans to spend EUR512 million (USD708.9 million) to make sure that all parts of the country are supplied with fibre-optic broadband coverage, according to the Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte. Online journal SiliconRepublic quotes the minister as saying that his department has agreed on the multi-million euro plan to deliver fibre connectivity to 1,100 villages and districts in areas considered economically unviable by commercial operators and as such, not in their rollout plans. Whilst next generation deployments are underway in major urban areas, Rabbitte argues that the operators’ plans overlook significant parts of rural Ireland, amounting to around 900,000 homes and businesses. Going forward, the government is ramping up its targets for broadband coverage (it originally planned to provide a minimum 30Mbps connection to every home by 2015) and will instead look to ‘future-proof’ that fibre is available anywhere. Its new plan envisages spending between EUR335 million and EUR512 million to connect between 1,000 and 1,200 villages, he said. ‘Large tracts of Ireland have a basic service that is not acceptable. People are entitled as citizens to the same quality and there’s a huge argument in terms of regional development and facilitating businesses in provincial Ireland,’ the minister added.
That is not to say Ireland is not grasping the nettle in urban areas, he says, with more than EUR2 billion invested in broadband in the country since 2012. Former monopoly operator Eircom is rolling out a EUR400 million next generation access fibre network capable of connecting 1.4 million homes with a 100Mbps connection by 2016, and already boasts that 800,000 households can access the network. Meanwhile, cableco UPC Ireland has ploughed EUR500 million into the upgrade of its own networks and now offers 700,000 homes a maximum 200Mbps line and a premium 500Mbps connection for business users. Not wanting to be left behind, in February this year the Republic’s Electricity Supply Board (ESB) entered into exclusive negotiations with Vodafone for the rollout of a new EUR400 million fibre broadband network to 450,000 homes and businesses in towns and villages across the country.