Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (125, 146)

Billy Kelleher


125. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the necessary investment required in fibre broadband here to be competitive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10062/13]

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Willie O'Dea


146. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of investment in fibre broadband that will be required to achieve the targets set out in the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10086/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 146 together.

Approximately €1bn is being invested in Ireland by existing companies in fibre infrastructure which will deliver broadband speeds of 30Mbps to 150Mbps to most homes and businesses. This investment will provide significant choice to the consumer.

While fibre to the home (FTTH) is currently not widely available to householders in Ireland, broadband networks which are serviced by fibre are increasingly providing high speed services to the home. 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 some 1.2m premises by December 2014. The network has already reached more than 230,000 premises and is expected to be launched over the coming months.

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

- BT is trialling Fibre to the Cabinet technologies that will deliver broadband at up to 80Mbps. BT provides this infrastructure to Vodafone and Sky.

- 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.

Many of these developments were signalled in the Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August last. The commercial market operators indicated that they expect to provide 70Mbps to 100Mbps services to 50% of the population by 2015. The Government is also committed in the Plan 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 identify where the market is expected to succeed and fail in the delivery of high speed broadband over the coming years. This will 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.

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.

In this context, the Government is committed to the delivery of the speeds referred to in the Plan, to ensure that all parts of Ireland will have at least 30Mbps connectivity.