Wednesday, 10 February 2021
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
National Broadband Plan
99. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the location of the pilot area used by National Broadband Ireland in establishing the feasibility of using the ESB Networks infrastructure in the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan. [7241/21]
100. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the benefits considered by National Broadband Ireland for using the ESB Networks infrastructure to accelerate the national broadband plan. [7242/21]
101. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the expected timeframe for completion of the pilot exercise using the ESB Networks infrastructure to accelerate the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7243/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 to 101, inclusive, together.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of good reliable broadband to ensure that citizens across Ireland can avail of remote working, education and other essential online facilities. The Programme for Government commits to seek to accelerate the roll out of the National Broadband Plan. In this regard, my Department continues to engage with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of this rollout to establish the possibility of bringing forward premises which are currently scheduled in years 6 and 7 of the current plan to an earlier date.
As part of that work NBI is engaging with all current build partners (eir and enet) to bring forward build activities and is also actively reviewing other possible build partners such as the ESB where such options could also speed up the build process. The engagement with the ESB involved the ESB surveying a single Deployment Area in County Galway, which is one of the 227 Deployment Areas included in the NBP intervention and the development of a detailed design with the aim of establishing the technical and practical feasibility of utilising the ESB network. All possible alternative network providers are being considered and substantial work has been completed to date with further actions scheduled over the coming months. These engagements are a commercial matter for NBI and the relevant service provider in the first instance and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time.
Exploring the potential to accelerate the network rollout is being undertaken in parallel with the measures required to mitigate delays arising as a result of Covid-19.
102. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the consideration that has been given to providing broadband to premises outside of the parameters of the national broadband plan that struggle with connectivity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7244/21]
The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie, shows the areas which will be included in the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led intervention as well as areas targeted by commercial operators. The map is colour coded and searchable by address and Eircode.
Commercial areas defined as BLUE on the NBP map are not included in the State intervention area covered by the National Broadband Plan as commercial operators are already providing high speed broadband or have indicated future plans to do so. My Department defines high speed broadband as a connection with minimum speeds of 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload. The activities of commercial operators delivering high speed broadband within BLUE areas are not planned or funded by the State and my Department has no statutory authority to intervene in that regard as they operate in a fully liberalised market regulated by ComReg as independent regulator.
The NBP network will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 500Mbps from the outset. This represents an increase from the 150Mbps committed to under the Contract. The deployment plan forecasts construction commenced in all counties within the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State having access to high speed broadband within the next four years.
I understand that some homes and businesses in Blue areas on the NBP map have experienced difficulty getting a reliable high-speed broadband service and my Department is proactively engaged in dealing with any such anomalies to ensure no home or business is left behind. It remains open to the Department to bring additional premises into the National Broadband Ireland (NBI) roll-out plan under the NBP contract where no commercial high-speed broadband service is available from any of the commercial operators.
Of the 2.4 million premises across Ireland, 77% of premises now have access to high-speed broadband of more than 30 Mbps. NBI will address the remaining premises through the National Broadband Plan State intervention. In many parts of the country, very high capacity networks are now becoming the norm. For example, 40% of subscriptions are for services offering speeds in excess of 100Mbps. There are more than 225,000 fibre subscriptions across the country, representing a 55% increase on last year.
A number of commercial operators have announced further investment plans in high-speed broadband. Eir has said it will roll out fibre to a further 1.4 million premises, bringing their fibre deployment to some 1.8 million premises. SIRO is currently completing the first phase of its fibre deployment which will see 375,000 premises passed with gigabit services. Virgin Media is offering 250Mbps as a standard offering with 500Mbps and 1Gbps available to many of their customers across the more than 1 million premises that they cover. Many other network operators and telecom service providers across the State also continue to invest in their networks.