Current state of broadband in Ireland

Introduction

We in IrelandOffline have been following the recent announcements about broadband delivery in Ireland with great interest and we have even attended some of the press events.

Seemingly we will all have fibre to the home by 2020, well so says the government and they have even drawn up a plan to make this happen, this is called the National broadband Plan (NBP). We believe this to be a very good and aspirational plan, despite the long timescale.

Current announcements

In tandem with the announcement of the NBP we also have a number of companies jockeying to be overall service providers for the NBP. These seemingly are eircom and Siro (Vodafone and ESB); both are currently anxious to impress all and sundry that they can do the job in hand. So with that in mind, they too have made a number of announcements.

Eircom will, on their own, equip 66 towns across Ireland meanwhile Siro will equip 50 towns and have press released a further roll out of a further 300 towns.

In the interim period eircom will go ahead with their plans to bring high speed broadband to many areas of Ireland, this however will be delivered by copper cables from fibre powered cabinets, this is scheduled to be delivered by December 2016.

Fibre to the Home – Current State of play

Currently we have 10 ESB Pilot Towns (out of 50)  including Cavan and Letterkenny and we have 3 eircom Pilot Towns (out of 66)  including Cavan and Letterkenny where the build has started, to be completed by August 2015.

It strikes us that these announcements are really fibre to the press release and are aimed squarely at getting a slice of the NBP pot of cash and may not be delivered without this cash becoming available.

Also it seems that the announcements are aimed squarely at an election in late 2015 or early 2016. Even a cursory examination of the towns to be served leads one to the conclusion that electoral needs are first and foremost in these announcements.

Meanwhile, the latest estimates are that large parts of the country, where population density is low, will get no real improvement in broadband service before 2020.

Blockages to the plans

It is currently cheaper to get a 10Gb circuit from Dublin to New York than it is to get the same capacity from Dublin to the western regions, these are the circuits that supply the broadband points of presence (POPs) in those regions and to which the local fibre deployment is connected. This urgently needs to be addressed to make the country wide deployment economically viable, and reasonably priced for consumers.

Conclusion

We have consistently stressed that fibre to the home is the only way to deliver a future-proofed broadband service to ALL areas of Ireland, and not just the major urban centres. This will become as essential as water or electricity in the not too distant future and addressing this deficit is very important if we are to remain competitive as a nation. Good broadband provision can boost economic growth by up to two per cent higher GDP growth.

In a second World Bank report, Broadband Infrastructure Investment in Stimulus Packages: Relevance for Developing Countries (PDF), author, Christine Zhen-Wei Qiang, concluded that “policy makers can wait for serious bottlenecks and areas of insufficient investment to appear before investing, or choose to invest as a way to attract economic activity”.

“In the case of broadband network, the significant time lag between identifying a bottleneck and building a network can forego large economic gains, given its positive spillover and network effects,” she wrote.

“Therefore, timely public spending in broadband infrastructure can realize immediate network effects and bring forward long-term aggregate spillover effects which improve the productivity of the entire economy.”

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