Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (102)

Pearse Doherty


102. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has identified any legislation needed for the rollout of high speed broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9972/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government’s National Broadband Plan aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed services of at least 30Mbps are available to all of our citizens and businesses, well in advance of the EU’s target date of 2020, and that significantly higher speeds are available to as many homes and businesses as possible.

Specifically, it commits to:

- 70Mbps to 100Mbps available from the commercial market operators to more than half of the population by 2015,

- At least 40Mbps, and in many cases faster speeds, to at least a further 20% and potentially as much as 35% of the population, and

- A minimum of 30Mbps for every remaining home and business in the country.

During the preparation of Ireland’s National Broadband Plan, the commercial market operators indicated that they expect to provide 70Mbps to 100Mbps services to 50% of the population by 2015. The commercial sector is already committed to approximately €1bn investment, which will deliver broadband speeds of 30Mbps to 150Mbps per second to homes and businesses.

For example:

- Eircom is currently investing up to €500m in a phased deployment of fibre to the cabinet infrastructure, which is planned to make high-speed broadband available to 1.2m premises. The network has already reached more than 200,000 premises and is expected to be launched in 2013.

- UPC is investing €500m in its cable and fibre network, which is delivering speeds of up to 150Mbps. UPC aims to have this service available to 700,000 homes by 2015.

- Mobile telecommunications operators will be rolling out advanced mobile broadband products in 2013, following the recent multi-band spectrum auction. Arising from the huge increase in the use of smart phones and tablet devices, advanced mobile broadband is of increasing significance. It is expected that fibre connections will be required to service many of the base stations that transmit mobile signals.

A key element of the Plan is the Government’s commitment to investing in areas where high speed services are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market.

The Plan also sets out a wide range of actions aimed at supporting and accelerating commercial sector investment in next generation broadband. It includes measures aimed at stimulating increased rates of digital adoption among citizens and businesses, the removal of barriers to make the various planning and consent approval systems more efficient and cost effective, a review of spectrum policy and legislation, as well as the potential contribution that State entities can make in infrastructure deployment.

A High Level Group has been established to oversee implementation of the Plan. Any legislative requirements that emerge as part of the implementation of the Plan, including the specific commitment to revise and update the spectrum legislation in the 1926 Wireless Telegraphy Act, will be progressed accordingly.

Earlier this month, my Department launched a tender for experts to assist in the design, planning and procurement of the State-led investment. Intensive technical, financial and legal preparations including stakeholder engagement will be ongoing throughout 2013 with a view to the launch of a procurement process in 2014.

The combination of these actions are designed to ensure the Government commitment that all parts of Ireland will have at least 30Mbps connectivity.

Question No. 103 answered with Question No. 95.