By Kurt Ruderman, KMI Corp.
The Irish government has launched an ambitious five-year metro fibre project to provide high-speed Internet access to 123 towns nationwide that have 1,500 or more inhabitants.
"We have the international links, we have in place significant backbone or inter-county links but what we have been lacking is the final last kilometres of fibre in towns itself. This rectifies that," said Ireland's Minister for Public Enterprise Mary O'Rourke at the recent launch of the project. "This initiative will push Ireland into the top 10 of OECD countries for broadband connectivity."
Niall Ó Donnchu, head of Electronic Commerce Policy Division, Department of Public Enterprise, said that phases one and two of the regional broadband program will ultimately see the investment of €uro160m. Both phases involve investment in each of Ireland's 26 counties.
For phase one, which will be completed over the next 6-18 months, some 50,000 fibre-km of cabled fibre will be used. Bids will go out in April. The full five-year, three-phase plan will need more than 300,000 km of cabled fibre.
Phase one of the broadband program will cover 19 towns. Metropolitan area fibre-optic networks will be built in the towns to link up with Ireland's nationwide backbone network. The town links will facilitate consumers, educational establishments, industry and business and provide "always on" low-cost and high-speed Internet access that will drive the Government's e-commerce agenda, said Ó Donnchu.
The first phase is being conducted in association with local and regional authorities, which will receive 90% funding from the government. A total of €uro44m is already allocated this year in the Department of Public Enterprise vote for the project, which should be completed in full next year at a total cost of €uro60m.
Fibre rings will be built in the towns and FTTC architecture will be the preferred access technology. An important feature of phase one will also be the testing of new technologies - including wireless technology.
Phase two will witness the expansion of broadband networks in the remaining 48 towns. This will be completed through a Public Private Partnership and involve a total investment of another €uro100m. Phase two should be completed within three years.
The first two phases will extend broadband services to one million people to provide key regional towns with quality, low-cost access to the information superhighway.
Phase three, which involves 56 towns, will complete the plan of linking all 123 towns in Ireland with a population of 1,500.
Phase three will to be completed in five years.