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European Commission backs Vodafone and ESB plans for fibre broadband network

The European Commission has approved plans for ESB and Vodafone to establish a joint venture company to deliver a new fibre broadband network to Ireland.

ESB and Vodafone will invest €450 million as part of the venture, which will deliver a 100% fibre-to-the-building network for the first time in Ireland.

The fibre broadband network will be available to all authorised broadband providers in the country, and the venture will use ESB’s existing electricity infrastructure.

Phase One set to begin in early 2015

In phase one, 500,000 homes and businesses in 50 towns are set to benefit from the ultra-fast broadband speeds – varying from 200 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps.

It is hoped the investment in the network will put Ireland among the world’s fastest broadband countries, benefiting both consumers and businesses.

ESB and Vodafone can now formally establish the joint venture, with network rollout set to get underway in the early part of 2015.

Phase One is expected to be completed by the end of 2018 with scope for further phases thereafter – initial technological testing is already under way in two estates in Cavan town.

An open access network to drive competition

Open access to the fibre-to-the-building network will be offered to authorised operators across Ireland on a wholesale basis – with ESB and Vodafone building and managing the venture.

As a result, other broadband operators can resell the fibre product to their customers, helping to drive innovation and the development of services in the broadband market.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White TD, welcomed the EC decision, adding that it will drive competition.

“High speed broadband is a crucial element for Ireland’s future competitiveness and this project will help ensure that Ireland is better connected than most countries in the world,” he said.

A huge milestone

Pat O’Doherty, chief executive of ESB, described the decision as a “huge milestone” for a company that has invested €6 billion on transforming Ireland’s electricity infrastructure in recent years.

“The fibre-to-the-building broadband network will be the most significant development in Ireland’s broadband sector to date and will be a real boost for regional Ireland and the economy as a whole,” he said.

“We will create an entirely new type of connectivity – seamless, instant and powerful – so that people in towns like Cavan can have the same amazing online experience as Tokyo.”

Anne O’Leary, the CEO of Vodafone Ireland, added that the network would boost the Irish business community which should also help to drive foreign direct investment.

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