I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 121 together.
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.
The targets are, in general, in cases of those set by the EU Digital Agenda.
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 making investments of the order of €1bn which will deliver broadband speeds of 30Mbps to 150Mbps to homes and businesses.
- 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 230,000 premises and is expected to be launched in the coming months.
- 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. With the explosion in the use of smart phones and tablet devices, the use of advanced mobile broadband is of increasing significance and 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 National Broadband 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. My Department is making preparations to commence a formal national mapping exercise to inform the level of Government interaction that may be required and the areas that need to be targeted for a State-led investment. It will also form a critical input to an EU State Aid application in respect of any State-led intervention.
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 on-going throughout 2013 with a view to the launch of a procurement process in 2014.
Any contract subsequently awarded to service provider(s) to implement the roll out of broadband in areas which require direct Government intervention will be monitored and measured in terms of performance and quality of service.
Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, we are committed to increasing the availability of next generation speeds significantly, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and business have a broadband connection which meets their needs to interact effectively with society and business.
A High Level Group chaired by my Department has been established to oversee progress on a wide range of actions outlined in the Plan aimed at supporting and accelerating investment in next generation broadband. These include 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 spectrum policy and legislation, as well as the potential contribution that State entities can make in infrastructure deployment.
The combination of these actions are designed to ensure that the Government commitment that all parts of Ireland, will have at least 30Mbps connectivity.