The Deputy is getting value for money from his question.
The national broadband plan aims to make high speed broadband available to all premises in Ireland through investment by commercial companies and a State intervention in areas where a commercial investment has not been fully demonstrated.
In December 2015 the procurement for the State intervention commenced. It aims to deliver networks with at least 30 Mbps download and 6 Mbps upload speeds to all premises within the intervention area. Intensive dialogue with bidders is continuing and the three bidders have indicated that they are proposing a predominantly fibre-to-the-home solution. Householders and businesses will get speeds not just of 30 Mbps but potentially 1,000 Mbps, with businesses potentially availing of symmetrical upload and download speeds.
In accordance with commitments in A Programme for a Partnership Government, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Rural, Regional and Gaeltacht Affairs is leading in the establishment of two regional action groups to help to accelerate the broadband network build in rural Ireland, once contracts have been awarded.
The commercial telecommunications sector has invested more than €2 billion in upgrading and modernising networks which support the provision of high speed broadband and mobile telecommunications services. Approximately 1.3 million premises in Ireland can now get high speed broadband and at least one mobile operator is delivering 4G services to more than 90% of the population.
In July I established a mobile telephone and broadband task force with my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Rural, Regional and Gaeltacht Affairs, to address immediate issues related to the quality of mobile telephone and broadband coverage. I expect the task force to report by the end of 2016.
In addition, I recently signed regulations allowing ComReg to proceed with an early 2017 auction of the 3.6 GHz radio spectrum band, to provide for an 86% increase in the total spectrum available for mobile and fixed wireless services.
I have also secured €8 million for RTE in my Department's Estimate for 2017 which will allow it to free up the 700 MHz spectrum band. ComReg expects to auction this spectrum which will provide for significantly enhanced mobile coverage. The 700 MHz band is particularly suited to rural environments as the signal can travel long distances. I also intend to discuss with ComReg the possibility of including elements within the auction process to ensure black spots, particularly in rural areas, will be identified and adequately addressed.
These initiatives should assist in significantly improving the quality of broadband and mobile telephone services across the country, putting Ireland to the forefront internationally in terms of connectivity.