Eir is to expand rollout of its gigabit fibre broadband network to a further 200,000 homes and businesses across the Republic. The company said the move will mean the number of premises due to be passed by the network increase to 1.9 million, equivalent to 84 per cent of all homes and businesses in the State.
The remaining homes and businesses not captured by the expansion are due to be served as part of the €3 billion National Broadband Plan (NBP).
Eir said the decision to expand rollout of its network is due to increased demand from customers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The average home and business now needs far greater bandwidth and reliable superfast connectivity to facilitate new ways of working, whilst maintaining a suitable connection, enabling multiple users to stream videos, make video calls, study remotely and game online,” the company said.
Eir, which dropped out of the running for the contract for the NBP, has undertaken a €1 billion capital investment in its own network.
The network had already passed 749,000 homes at the end of April, including 340,000 that had originally been earmarked for the NBP. The aim is to extend this to 1.7 million premises over the next three years.
The multibillion-euro State contract to roll out broadband to 540,000 homes and businesses under the NBP over a seven-year period was awarded to National Broadband Ireland in 2019 after Eir and Siro withdrew from the competition.
“We continuously monitor the connection rates of our fibre network and we have seen connections to our rural network more than double in the last 18 months, signifying the increased requirements for high-speed connectivity of homes and businesses in Ireland.
"The pandemic has transformed our needs and what was sufficient for the average family home before is no longer adequate," said Eavann Murphy, managing director, Open Eir Wholesale.
She said the combination of its expanded network together with the NBP will make the Republic one of the most connected countries in the world.
“The upgrade of all premises, both homes and businesses, to a gigabit fibre connection will enable customers to live and work anywhere they choose in Ireland, while being connected with high-speed fibre, an absolute essential,” she said.
The Government is looking at fast-tracking the NBP in response to the coronavirus crisis, with Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan telling the Dáil earlier this year it is looking at bringing forward premises that are currently scheduled to be passed in years six and seven of the plan to an earlier date.
It was recently urged to consider providing a grant or subsidy for households in areas that will be unable to receive fibre broadband through the NBP or Eir to allow them to avail of satellite services instead.