Finally some good news but a lot yet to be done
Finally some good news but a lot yet to be done
Finally, after waiting for many years, there have been some serially positive announcements on advanced Broadband over the past few months.While this is good news for urban areas, these announcements will make little impact on the dire broadband situation around the rest of the country where most consumers are stuck on 3Mb/s “broadband” or simply cannot get any form of broadband.
We warmly welcome all of these initiatives to roll out high capacity Broadband, particularly those from UPC and the ESB and look forward to Ireland being in the top ten in OECD broadband rankings and our once held aspirations to being the “e-hub” of Europe finally coming to fruition.
According to Comreg there are 16,286 users around the country still stuck on dial-up (we believe the true figure is much higher that that). These users may not have much to look forward to in the immediate future, but we can only hope that eventually the “remote” areas will be reached by one of the announced initiatives. How can there be “remote” locations on a small island?
However, the million premises that are to be ignored shouldn’t be forgotten and we must bridge the digital divide for all our citizens.
These initiatives will finally bring Ireland up near the same standard as Lapland, an area which is mostly above the Arctic Circle and where it is notoriously difficult to engage in civil works. Doing broadband in the Arctic simply shows that “where there is a will there is a way” and we can’t use the excuse “it’s too hard”.
The solution to the mess that is broadband is seemingly to utterly ignore Comreg and forge ahead with whatever plans make economic sense. Without question Comreg are the main impediment to the rollout of decent broadband in Ireland. A “regulator” that fails to regulate when faced with EU directives and just says “can’t be done”, while other countries, faced with the exact same directives, can see fit to make broadband a legal right while we get only dialup as a minimum requirement in 2012.
And that is why towns like Rovaniemi(1) , north of the Arctic Circle in Finland, trounce Dublin.
The Electricity Supply Board have quietly announced their intention to roll out a fibre network using their own electricity infrastructure to the lesser served areas of the country. The ESB is considering the feasibility of establishing a joint venture company to deploy fibre to the building (FTTB). The plan is to deploy wholesale open access fibre to individual homes or premises in Ireland, in selected urban/semi-urban areas, using existing ESB over/underground infrastructure. We believe that a minimum of €300 million may be spent on this project which could extend the reach of the current ESB Fibre network to many areas with a subsequent increase in speeds for many consumers. This is at proposal stage but hopefully the venture will form shortly.
BT Ireland FTTC
BT have an excellent national Network and have access to xDSL equipment at prices that eircom can only dream about due to their economies of scale. However they have a need for “Middle Mile” Fibre to connect from the exchanges to Cabinets in Urban and Suburban locations. In order to do so eircom needs to produce Middle Mile products, be they Dark Fibre or Wavelength services. Currently BT Ireland are entering into a trial in Dun Laoghaire to find out if there are any regulatory and commercial barriers to a nationwide rollout of xDSL in a similar way to the situation in Northern Ireland. They promise speeds in the region of 80Mb/s with their rollout. However, again, this would only be in urban and semi-urban areas. They are to test the so called SLU process.
For many users in urban areas and some selected regional towns UPC have bumped up their entry level product to 50Mb/s (existing 25 Mb/s customers will have to pay €3/mth extra for the upgrade). Overall, this is excellent news for urban consumers. UPC, once the slowest network of all the European UPC group of companies has now shot to near the top of the “ tables” with this innovative initiative. They have also demonstrated that their High Frequency Coax (HFC) network can easily reach speeds of 1Gb/s using standard off the shelf equipment.
eircom are currently in the process of a limited FTTH rollout with a more widespread FTTC rollout. This rollout will follow the same path as the previous DSL upgrade; how far it goes remains to be seen.
The areas covered by the FTTH initiative are Sandyford (in Dublin) and Wexford town with a possible limited rollout of FTTH in areas close to the exchange(2). This rollout will cover mostly urban areas most of which are currently covered already by UPC so the eircom products will need to be competitively priced to compete effectively. Again this FTTC process will be using the regulated SLU procedures where the copper loop from the local cabinet to the premises will be the only copper in the network; the rest will be fibre based. This was promised in 2003/4 but never happened for a variety of unknown reasons.
All in all these developments,albeit limited, are great news for broadband users and they are to be welcomed and we look forward to the day when fibre is driven close to every community on the island. Fibre is the only way to deliver faster broadband to our citizens and any other scheme is just pure laziness and incompetence.
FTTC – Fibre to the cabinet
FTTB – Fibre to the building
FTTH – Fibre to the home
SLU – Sub-loop unbundling
(1) http://www.netindex.com/download/4,6516/Rovaniemi/?tab=3 Rovaniemi Speeds.