Minister Rabbitte’s Broadband Targets

Minister Rabbitte’s Broadband Targets

First of all we in IrelandOffline welcome the broad intent of the Cabinet which is to implement the EU Digital Agenda, requiring 30 mbits minimum speeds for all by 2016. We are in full agreement with the sentiments expressed in the document, broadband is indeed the Rural Electrification project of the 21st century and needs to be treated with the same commitment as that scheme was. The World Bank and the OECD agree on this point.

However, as has always been the case with the Department of Communications, the first procurement by Minister Rabbitte’s department will inevitably be a consultant led approach behind which his civil servants will resolutely hide under some pretence of commercial confidentiality and utterly refuse to enforce the guarantees set out. This is entirely the wrong approach.

Mobile “broadband”

Let us be clear on one point. It is not possible to deliver any of these  targets using any form of mobile access (be it LTE or not) for a myriad of technical reasons and if Minister Rabbitte believes otherwise then he has been grossly misadvised by his departmental staff as were his predecessors. Most Rural Areas cannot be adequately served by 4G technology and will require a Fixed Wireless solution not a Mobile solution.This will require a clear commitment from Comreg to make available the required spectrum at a reasonable cost.

Furthermore the current 4G licensing round does not permit RAN sharing (spectrum pooling)  and the spectrum blocks assigned to operators (5mhz) are far too small to deliver 30mbits and the licensing must therefore be revisited, particularly in rural areas, to allow operators to share spectrum/masts to provide meaningful speeds.

The solution for Ireland

There is no single solution to providing a Universal 30mbits  and a single procurement would be unwise in our opinion. A mix of Fibre/Copper/Fixed Wireless and a small infill of Mobile Wireless will be required to deliver the targets of the Digital Agenda for Europe. This is the only way to deliver a “guaranteed” service to consumers.

We believe that the second and third targets can be achieved, not least because they already have been in the main in TV Cabled Towns. Operators such as Casey and UPC offer 120mbits already, but only in Residential areas and not in Business districts. These business districts will have to be cabled or fibred in every main town. We would estimate that Ireland has 30% availability of 100mbit technology today and that this will increase to around 40% by 2015.

Planning measures to ensure universal access to Cable and fibre would greatly help the network completion in these towns.

The third target, the ‘non cabled towns’ objective of c.40-70mbits requires a 2 stage procurement. Stage 1 would have to be a Regional MAN type fibre to within 1km of every home and business in those target areas and stage 2 may or may not be a fast copper based technology like VDSL or a Fibre to the premises strategy.   

Conclusion

The Taskforce has already reported in April with its wish list for streamlining of bureacracy, cost reductions and marketing support. IrelandOffline supported some of these points. What was missing then was the role of Government. This plan fails to answer that question. Yesterday’s document does no more than speculate about an indicative investment from indicative sources, delivered over an unknown time frame on unknown technologies, and will reassure nobody. It is not a plan, its more like a hopeful prayer. It’s simply a plan about a plan.

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3 Responses

  1. joujoujou says:

    I’ll be more than happy if that dream comes true. But in fact, politicians’ promises are the very last thing I’d believe in.

  2. shane says:

    Yea. And what will that cost the consumer. I pay a ridiculous €42 per month for my broadband. That’s the best deal available in a town of over 20,000 population.

  3. David says:

    This is a schema equivalent to electrification and an essential infrastructure if we are to meet the demands of 21st century business and living. I despair however being located near a large regional town that the situation has deteriorated rather than improved in the past five years. I fear government dreams will be just that, dreams that never come to anything.

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