Telecoms firm Enet has opened up a new line of attack on market incumbent Eir with a plan to supply fibre broadband in several rural areas, which were previously the sole domain of the former semi-State.
The company, which is backed by specialist telecoms investor Granahan McCourt, has announced a new €100 million joint venture with energy firm SSE to supply 115,000 rural homes with fibre broadband over the next two years.
The nine rural towns earmarked for the service – Ballinasloe, Roscommon Town, Manorhamilton, Bundoran, Ballyshannon, Donegal Town, Ballybofey, Stranorlar and Buncrana – had previously been part of the Government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP).
However, they were taken out of the State scheme on foot of a controversial deal between the Government and Eir, which saw 300,000 homes removed and placed back into Eir’s commercial rollout plans.
Enet, which is competing with Eir and ESB-Vodafone joint venture Siro for the NBP contract, now plans to build a separate network to supply many of the same homes.
Both Eir and Enet had originally told the Department of Communications that it was uneconomic to supply broadband in these areas without some form of State subsidy.
However, competition for the Government’s NBP contract, which could be worth up to €500 million to the winner or winners, has apparently prompted a rethink.
Either way, the homes and businesses in these areas, which have been without adequate broadband coverage, can now expect to be offered services with speeds of up to one gigabit per second, the gold standard internationally.
Enet, which was recently sold to the Irish Infrastructure Fund for between €150 million and €200 million, is Ireland’s largest wholesale-only carrier with offices in Limerick and Dublin. It manages the State’s Metropolitan Area Networks (Mans), a series of telecommunications networks built around 94 towns, selling broadband packages to retail service providers.
Its partnership with SSE was unveiled on Thursday by Minister for Communications Denis Naughten at an event in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.
"This joint venture between Enet and SSE will deliver world-class high speed broadband to 115,000 premises, which is tremendous news for consumers and businesses in regional Ireland, " Mr Naughten said.
Stephen Wheeler, managing director of SSE Ireland, said: “We are very excited to be working with Enet and Granahan McCourt Capital on such a key project for Ireland, developing a commercial relationship that will bring huge benefits to regional Ireland through the delivery of superfast fibre connectivity to 115,000 homes and businesses.”