For years, many Irish start-ups and SMEs based outside of the main conurbations of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway had to suffer interminable breakdowns when trying to access decent broadband services for their businesses. Not only did limited broadband severely limit businesses’ ability to perform on an equal playing pitch, it also had the knock on effect of putting exceptional start-ups out of business or having to relocate to a Dublin that is so bursting at the seams that the only affordable office space is on a Grand Canal barge. Considering successive Irish governments have been touting Ireland as a European Silicone Valley for nearly over a decade, the situation had gone way beyond embarrassment.
However, Ireland’s ill-thought out relationship with broadband is, in theory, to be consigned to history with the news that over 500,000 homes and businesses around the more rural environs of our country are set to benefit from access to super-fast fibre broadband been rolled out jointly by Vodafone and ESB.
Unveiled as SIRO, this new joint venture will invest over €450 million into running fibre broadband cables over the ESB’s electricity lines and should give over a million people in rural areas access to broadband speeds of 1 Gbps. In the short term, the investment programme will create 60 jobs directly and over 200 contractors will be employed to help roll out the service.
The first 10 towns, or ‘Fibrehoods’, to benefit from the Government’s National Broadband Plan will be Cavan, Dundalk, Westport, Castlebar, Sligo, Carrigaline, Tralee, Navan, Letterkenny and Wexford. Construction begins this summer, with the expectation that fifty towns around the country will have fully functioning broadband by the end of 2018. There is also scope for a second phase, which, depending on commercial viability, expects to reach over 300 smaller towns during the same period.
If successful, and many rural dwellers remain sceptical, not only is the broadband roll-out great news for rural homes, farms, hospitals and schools, but also start-ups and SMEs can now finally do business at home and enjoy the benefits that apps, eCommerce, mobile services, and responsive websites bring to rural businesses.