State-owned ESB names Vodafone preferred bidder to construct fibre network in rural areas using electricity infrastructure
Irish state-owned Electricity Supply Board (ESB) has named Vodafone as the preferred bidder to construct a new €400 million (£328m) fibre network across the country, using existing electrical infrastructure.
The British operator was reportedly competing for the deal with BT Ireland, but the company has now entered exclusive negotiations with the ESB.
The Irish government is currently pushing through legislation that will allow the ESB to use its overground infrastructure for the delivery of fibre, with politicans hoping that it will provide more choice for broadband in rural Ireland.
The new network will be operated as a joint-venture between Vodafone and the ESB, aiming to bring superfast broadband to 500,000 homes outside major cities such as Dublin and Cork, which are not covered by the commercial deployments of former state monopoly Eircom and Liberty Global-owned UPC Ireland.
Eircom’s fibre network is currently available to 1.4 million premises in Ireland, while UPC Ireland covers just 700,000 homes and businesses, all in major towns and cities.
The Irish Independent reports that the first phase of the rollout will see 1,300km of fibre laid in urban and semi-urban areas, with Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) services made available by using electricity poles and underground cabling.
Vodafone, which also operates mobile services in Ireland, entered the home broadband market in 2009 when it purchased BT Ireland’s residential and SMB customer base. It offers Internet services using BT and Eircom networks.
The company’s strategy in Ireland mirrors the one employed in a number of other European countries, such as Italy, Spain and Germany, where it is constructing or purchasing fibre and cable networks to help offset sliding revenues in its mobile business.
BT has so far won all the of government funding available under a similar imitative called Broadband Delivery UK, which aims to extend fibre coverage to areas that would not otherwise be covered by commercial deployments.