The purpose of the National Broadband Plan is to ensure that over 1.1 million of our citizens in rural Ireland have the same opportunity to participate in the digital society as citizens living in urban areas. The availability of ubiquitous high speed broadband will bring significant benefits in areas of e-Health, e-Education, smart farming, regional development and tourism. The National Broadband Plan procurement process was technology neutral, as required under State Aid Guidelines for Broadband. This means it did not specify a preferred technology. However, all bidders in the process proposed fibre as the best solution. Fibre can meet the requirements set out in the NBP but also can be upgraded for additional capacity over time at low additional cost to network operators.
The basic product that will be offered on the State intervention network will be 150 megabits per second (Mbps), which is comparable to fibre networks in urban areas. The network is designed with a roadmap to upgrade the services over 25 years, including upgrades to increase residential speeds to 300Mbps by Year 6 of the contract and 500Mbps by year 10. This ensures the network is future proofed to meet requirements in years to come. A product of 1 Gigabit per second is also available to businesses and any residential homes that may require it.
Fibre can deliver up to 10 Gigabit per second speed with no major upgrades required, ensuring that the solution is future proofed and has a low running cost, making it an extremely efficient solution. Other broadband technologies such as 4G, 5G or fixed wireless, may be deployed to connect premises in limited circumstances where fibre is not cost-effective - for example for extremely remote or difficult to connect homes.
My Department considered other technologies than fibre and agreed with the national and international expertise in this area that a fibre-based solution was the most economical way to address all premises with a future-proofed solution over the 25 years of the contract, ensuring there is no need for a further State investment in the short term to replace an obsolete technology.