Denis O’Brien in consortium bidding for national broadband plan

Actavo in group with Enet and Nokia and led by investment company Granahan McCourt

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten told the Dáil on Tuesday that his department had received the final tender relating to the national broadband plan. Photograph: Michael Smith/Getty Images

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten told the Dáil on Tuesday that his department had received the final tender relating to the national broadband plan. Photograph: Michael Smith/Getty Images

 

Denis O’Brien’s Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv, has joined a consortium bidding for the national broadband plan (NBP) as the process reaches the final hurdle.

The company, in which former Independent News and Media chairman Leslie Buckley is a board member, is part of a group led by private investment company Granahan McCourt.

Mr Buckley is involved in a legal action launched by INM for damage allegedly caused to the company by his conduct. Mr Buckley is alleged to have been involved in a suspected “data breach” in which outsiders were granted secret access to INM’s email servers.

Mr Buckley has said consistently that he will “fully and robustly” defend himself against the allegations. Matters surrounding the purchase of Siteserv by Mr O’Brien are subject to an investigation by Mr Justice Brian Cregan.

Other partners in the consortium include Enet and Nokia. The partners for the construction phase include Actavo, the Kelly Group and the KN Group. The latter two partners are specialist telecommunications providers.

Tender

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten told the Dáil on Tuesday afternoon that his department received the final tender from the last remaining bidder in the process earlier in the day. He said around 80 people in the department would evaluate the tender.

Asked by Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley whether John Laing Group, a London-based infrastructure investor and manager, were still involved in the process, Mr Naughten didn’t comment. A spokesman for the consortium also declined to comment on the involvement of John Laing Group but Mr Dooley said it was his understanding they were no longer involved.

In July, SSE, which was also involved in the then Enet consortium, also pulled out of the process.

The Granahan McCourt consortium – formerly fronted by Enet – suggested the final tender lodged today “demonstrates the consortium’s commercial, financial, legal, as well as technical solutions for the delivery of the world class gigabit broadband to every home, farm and business in the intervention area”.

While Enet no longer appear to be leading the bid, the consortium said it will be “an integral part of the ongoing operation of the network when built”. Nokia, meanwhile, will be the consortium’s technology partner.

Submission

Commenting on the submission of the tender, founder and chief executive of Granahan McCourt, David McCourt, said: “We have assembled a world-class team with financial resources, unrivalled construction expertise and proven experience of operational capabilities to deliver this project for the Irish Government and for the citizens in rural Ireland. ”

In addition to announcing its new partners, the consortium – National Broadband Ireland – said it will have access to Eir’s rural pole infrastructure as well as their duct network to complete the physical bid.

While it is unclear when the final tender will be accepted or declined, Mr Naughten said his department will evaluate it “over the coming weeks”. Pressed my Mr Dooley on the members of the consortium, Mr Naughten said: “the 543,000 families and business across Ireland don’t care what’s on the side of the van, they want high speed broadband, they deserve high speed broadband and I’m determined they get high speed broadband.”

The plan, which was first announced in 2012, promised to provide “next generation broadband to every home and business in the State” through a combination of commercial and State investment.

Earlier this year, Eir pulled out of the running citing “repeatedly highlighted” commercial, regulatory and governance issues. A consortium comprised of ESB and Vodafone also removed itself from the process.