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Statement by Minister Denis Naughten TD as delivered at Government Press Centre re NBP

26th September 2017

 

Introduction

Just as by building Ardnacrusha nearly ninety years ago, electricity unlocked the potential of a young country, and ensured its survival, Broadband will unlock our potential today as Europe's youngest population.

 

The Government's National Broadband Plan will put every place name on the digital map. It will give every parish the means to be the hub of a living community. 

 

Everyone in the world is looking at what we are doing here because just like we were the first country to bring electricity to every home, we will be the first to bring high speed broadband to every single home and every single business in the country. We will be the first country to do this. 

 

Today I am announcing that we have reached a significant milestone in the National Broadband Plan Procurement Process.

 

As you know this procurement process will select a bidder, or bidders, who will roll out a high speed broadband network to remote rural areas not served by commercial operators. The successful bidder or bidders will build, maintain and operate this State Intervention network for the next 25 years. 

 

This network will place Ireland at the forefront of a digital Europe.

 

Receipt of Two Bids

Today was the closing date for bidders to submit their "Detailed Solutions" in the procurement process. I can confirm at 12 noon my Department received submissions from 2 Bidders.

 

Those bidders were Eircom Limited and the Granahan McCourt, enet, SSE, John Laing Group plc consortium.  This is a significant and positive milestone in the process and the path to a digitally equal Ireland.

 

We are one of a few countries in the world that has a compelling competing operator to the incumbent.

 

The submissions received today - legally termed "Detailed Solutions" - means we are at the final stages of this Procurement Process.

 

The Department's specialist NBP team will now evaluate these two submissions over the coming weeks.  Some of the Team are here and can, if appropriate, answer your questions specifically on the procurement process which I am precluded from doing so.

 

However what I want to say about the Process and the National Broadband Plan is that people in towns and villages across Ireland are getting connected and getting access to high speed broadband every minute of every working day through massive investment from commercial operators – 1.8 million euro per day. They would not be investing and connecting people at the rate they are, were it not for the State's National Broadband Plan and that is a fact.

 

SIRO - the ESB-Vodafone joint venture - formally communicated to my Department that it is withdrawing from the procurement process to focus its efforts on delivering high speed broadband to 500,000 homes and businesses across 51 towns in Ireland.  They are investing €450 million euro on this project. 

 

I understand they will be issuing their statement on their withdrawal from the Process in the coming minutes.

 

Progress

Last month the independent telecommunications regulator ComReg, published its quarterly report which shows there has been a 38% increase in the quality of broadband services since I took office 16 months ago.  In fact 70% of all fixed broadband services to homes are now a high speed service.

 

What this independent report of actual fixed broadband connections also shows is that since this Government was formed an extra 171 homes every day are being connected to a broadband service.

 

In the last 6 months there has been a 150% increase in the number of pure fibre connections. This type of service potentially allows customers to view 200 high definition Netflix programmes at the one time.

 

The facts are that close to 7 out of 10 premises now have access to high speed broadband.  Within a year that will rise to nearly eight out of ten premises and by 2020 nine out of ten premises or 90% of premises the length and breadth of the country will have access to high speed broadband.

 

Eir is on track to pass 101,000 rural premises by the end of this week.  They are honouring their commitment under the Agreement I signed with them last April that commits them to roll out high speed broadband to 300,000 homes and businesses.

 

As a result of this Agreement other players in the market have ramped up the speed of their roll-out.

 

As I mentioned earlier SIRO will focus now on its investment of €450 million to provide pure fibre broadband to 500,000 premises across 51 towns on an open access basis.  In fact they will have passed 100,000 premises by the end of the week.

 

Enet and SSE's joint venture will invest €100 million in pure fibre broadband to 115,000 premises starting now in Ballinasloe, then Roscommon Town, Manorhamilton and 6 towns in Donegal. Enet has already built fibre to the business in Ardee, Claremorris, Loughrea and Kilkenny.

 

Virgin Media is expanding its network into 200,000 more premises across Ireland.

 

In addition last May mobile and wireless operators spent €78m in the acquisition of rights in the 2017 3.5 gigahertz auction, which released 86% more spectrum to the industry.

 

As a result Ireland is the first country to have successfully concluded a spectrum auction to facilitate the roll-out of 5G. Therefore we are the first country to deploy 5G nationally by both fixed and wireless operators. This allows them provide faster fixed wireless and mobile services to their customers.

 

A number of the successful bidders are now looking to deploy fixed 5G and I've been informed by one company that it expects to cover 85% of the land mass of Ireland by 2019.

 

As we know modern technology requires massive investment. Commercial operators are stepping up the plate by spending €1.8 million euro per day on their networks.

 

Delivery requires government prioritising implementation. This is a productive investment for local communities and a stronger economy. This investment will make a real return.

 

That return is increased employment. It is local opportunity. It is opportunity that gives us unlimited access in a globalised world. Delivering broadband is a social vision and it is a priority for me.

 

Because of the release of the additional spectrum, and the fact that we now have 3 wholesale open access networks throughout Ireland we can now assist the 542k premises in the Amber area in the short term, by providing hot desks in rural community centres as every village will have pure fibre connection to it.  This will also improve the quality and development of mobile and wireless broadband.

 

It is an undisputed fact that the National broadband Plan has successfully leveraged commercial investment of pure fibre to over 900k premises in the four corners of Ireland including nearly 28,209 farms.

 

Thank you.

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