Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Questions (1041)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

1041. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on whether the roll-out of 5G services within the amber area would present a barrier to the roll-out of the national broadband plan; if the roll-out of a fibre network would be permissible under state aid rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13741/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The rollout of 5G services across Ireland is a key ingredient in meeting the country’s future connectivity needs; 5G will offer improvements in services and unlock new opportunities to businesses, communities and citizens across the State.

Ireland is a front runner in supporting the adoption of 5G services and exploring its potential capabilities. The State’s early allocation of the 3.6Ghz spectrum in 2017, (the first in Europe) and the actions to remove commercial barriers to 5G rollouts, undertaken through the Government’s Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce are both key enablers to ensuring 5G becomes a reality in Ireland at the earliest opportunity.

The future connectivity needs of citizens will be met by a combination of solutions, not solely through 5G, but also through other complementary solutions including the National Broadband Plan (NBP), which aims to ensure high speed broadband access to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location. These different initiatives are likely to work in tandem together to provide connectivity services and solutions where they are best suited. I note recent publications from ComReg reporting on

Meeting Consumers' Connectivity Needs (https://www.comreg.ie/improving-connectivity-in-ireland-challenges-solutions-and-actions/) through a range of solutions which highlights this point. Therefore the rollout of 5G networks in the Amber area is encouraged and does not present a barrier to the rollout of the NBP.

In relation to the rollout of a fibre based network, State Aid Guidelines provide that intervention in a market failure scenario must be technology neutral. The NBP procurement process sought market solutions based on this guidance. All pre-qualified bids received through this process did, however, propose a predominantly fibre to the home solution.

As the Deputy will be aware, the procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage and I intend to bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.