Vodafone and the ESB announce plans to bring fibre to rural areas using overhead electricity cables
Vodafone is to extend its fibre footprint in yet another European nation by teaming up with the Electricity Strategy Board (ESB) in Ireland to build a €450 million (£358m) FTTP network across the country using existing electricity infrastructure.
The ESB, which builds and maintains this infrastructure, has been looking for a partner to build a state-assisted fibre network since 2012 in the hope that it can narrow the divide between urban and rural areas.
According to the country’s communications regulator ComReg, 43 percent of all fixed broadband customers in Ireland receive speeds of less than 10Mbps, but the new FTTP service should offer speeds of between 250Mbps and 1Gbps.
Ireland FTTP network
Fibre services are available in Ireland through the likes of Eircom and Liberty Global-owned UPC Ireland, but coverage is limited outside major cities. The ESB and Vodafone’s network will initially connect 500,000 premises not covered by these commercial deployments in 50 towns In Ireland, including Bray, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford, by 2018.
The first connections are expected in 2015 and the joint-venture agreement includes scope for a second phase once the first is complete. Irish ministers claims SMBs in rural areas will become more competitive and that regional towns will be able to secure more jobs and investments.
They also promise urban areas will benefit as the open nature of the new network will allow anyone to offer services over it, stimulating competition.
“This initiative, combined with significant investments by other industry players means Ireland is beginning to position itself as a front runner in terms of tackling the high speed broadband deficit which almost all developed countries face,” says Pat Rabbitte, Minister for communications, energy and natural resources.
Vodafone fixed strategy
Vodafone, which also operates mobile services in Ireland, first entered the home broadband market in 2009 when it purchased BT Ireland’s residential and SMB customer base. It serves 200,000 customers and currently operates using BT and Eircom’s networks.
The British-based operator is investing heavily in fixed line networks across Europe as it seeks to offset sliding revenues in its mobile business. It is building fibre infrastructure in Italy and Spain, while it has also agreed deals to purchase Kabel Deutschland in Germany and Ono in Spain.
“Vodafone is delighted to partner with ESB to make Ireland the first European country to roll-out nationwide fibre-to-the-building broadband on electricity infrastructure,” says Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary.
In the UK, government funding has been made available to extend superfast broadband to areas not covered by commercial deployments through the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) initiative.
However this has proved controversial as BT has won all of the money available under the scheme, while the primary technology used in the rollout has been Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC), which offers slower speeds than the FTTP being used by Vodafone and the ESB in Ireland.