Thursday, 16 November 2023
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
48. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress he and his Department continue to make towards the provision of high-speed, high-quality broadband throughout the country, with particular reference to ensuring an early link up between those areas currently having a reasonable service with the need to ensure maximum spread of service in the shortest possible term in order to facilitate the domestic and commercial markets, urban and rural; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50211/23]
In December 2022, my Department published Ireland's Digital Connectivity Strategy which supports the ambition outlined in the National Digital Strategy and sets out a number of ambitious targets, including that:
- all Irish households and businesses will be covered by a Gigabit network no later than 2028;
- all populated areas will be covered by 5G no later than 2030, and
- digital connectivity will be delivered to all schools and broadband connection points by 2023.
Commercial operators’ fibre rollouts are progressing at pace. Open eir are rolling out a full fibre to the premise network to up to 1.9 million premises and to date we understand has passed over 1.1 million homes. SIRO has recently reached a milestone of enabling over 555,000 premises for full fibre and is on track to reach 700,000 premises by 2026 through a €1billion investment. Virgin Media recently announced a €200 million investment plan to upgrade its cable network to bring full fibre to up to 1 million premises over the next three years and recently passed 252,000 premises.
Along with the progress made by commercial operators’ in expanding their next generation networks throughout the State, the National Broadband Plan intervention contract provides for the roll out of a high speed and future-proofed broadband network to primarily rural areas. The intervention area covers over 1.1 million people living and working in over 560,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with some 679 schools.
I am advised by NBI that, over 200,000 premises are passed across 26 counties and available for immediate connection. Over 60,000 premises are already connected to the NBP high-speed broadband network.
Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. As of 03rdNovember some 952 sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development.
NBI also reports that the necessary infrastructure is installed in 669 Primary Schools in the Intervention area with 29 installed by other operators as agreed with the Department of Education and the remaining installed by NBI. NBI reports that 500 schools have been connected and are live. Further details can be found at nbi.ie/bcp-locations/.
Recent ComReg data shows that Quarter 2, 2023 saw a 7.4% increase in fibre broadband subscriptions compared to the first 3 months of the year, and a 33.7% increase when compared to Quarter 2 of 2022. This demonstrates that take-up of fibre connectivity for homes and businesses is increasing massively as it is deployed to areas where it had previously been unavailable. The same ComReg data also indicates that c.40% of homes and business throughout the State now have access to gigabit services through either fibre (576,856) or cable (359,669) infrastructure.
In County Kildare, Open eir have already passed over 53,200 homes and businesses with gigabit services in Co. Kildare with plans to pass a further c.23,000 premises passed over the next 2 – 3 years, bringing their total fibre-based investment in the county to over €35m., Other commercial operators are also continuing to increase their network footprint right across Kildare, with SIRO recently passing over 28,000 premises for full fibre, and Virgin Media passing over 44,800 premises. NBI have passed over 4,000 premises with a high-speed fibre broadband network and available for immediate connection with 1,488 premises now connected.