Irish government launches Limerick fibre network

Ireland's minister for Communications, Marine, and Natural Resources has announced the start of the Limerick Metropolitan Network that is part of the Governments Metropolitan Areas Network Programme.

"My aim is to place Ireland within the top 10% of OECD countries for broadband connectivity," Dermot Ahern TD, minister for Communications, Marine, and Natural Resources, said in announcing the project, which is one the most aggressive national broadband plans in the European Union.

The EUR5-million Limerick project is part of a EUR65 million, 19-town national broadband initiative that is 90% funded by the government under the National Development Plan 2000-06 and co-funded by the EU under the European Regional Development Fund. The project involves the installation of a 44-km underground fibre-optic ring in Limerick city and the surrounding area. The cable ring will provide a backbone Internet network into which service providers can link to provide a range of high-speed services to businesses, homes, schools, hospitals, and other users. The project is due to be completed in May 2004. It will interconnect with existing fibre backbones and connect to the Southern Fibre Loop section of the ESB Telecoms national backbone network.

In January, Ahern inaugurated the Southern Loop of ESB's figure eight-shaped national network. ESB will complete by yearend the entire 1,300-route-km network, which will cover the country from Donegal to Cork. Money for the project came from ESB Telecoms' parent company, Electricity Supply Board (ESB).

ESB Telecom has built 960 km of its planned 1,300-route-km, 48-fibre network. The 960 km of network includes the 600-route-km Southern Ring and 360 km of network that will form the Northern Ring. The network is being built using wraparound cable supplied by AFL Focas. The network uses SDH technology supplied by Ericsson. ESB is studying the use of DWDM and Gigabit Ethernet technologies.

ESB Telecom will operate as a carrier's carrier, targeting alternative operators such as Colt, WorldCom, NTL, and AT&T. The network also will be used for ESB's internal communications. It will be the only network offering dark fibre, according to Peter Kelly, marketing manager, ESB Telecoms.

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