High-speed broadband at third level boosts wider education system

Network delivering 100 gigabit-per-second speed at €5m cost hailed as ‘game-changer’


The rollout of a new ultra-fast national broadband network is a “game-changer” for Ireland’s education and research sector.

That is according to Darragh Richardson, managing director of Agile Networks, the integration partner on the €5 million project.

The new HEAnet infrastructure delivers 100 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) capacity, making it capable of carrying ultra-high bandwidth traffic for educational institutions at 216 higher-education and research locations across the 2,500km national fibre network.

“For a relatively small budget there is an awful lot of broadband being distributed for one of the most important areas of our economy,” said Mr Richardson.

Dublin City University (DCU) was the first institution in the country to connect to the network, which has been funded by the Department of Education and Skills through the Higher Education Authority. Following the successful completion of a phased rollout to the main urban campus locations, six of seven universities are now connected to the new network with all other locations to be linked up by early 2018.

Agile, which was acquired by rival PlanNet21 Communications earlier this year, secured the seven-year contract to provide the new network in 2016.

“Third-level institutions are the most obvious beneficiaries but second level and primary will also gain from this network,” Mr Richardson said.

“In building this really massive centralised network we are also enabling schools – many of which are still struggling on small pipes – the potential to carry significantly more traffic,” he added.

In all, more than a million students and nearly 89,000 researchers, teachers and support staff across primary, secondary and third level are expected to benefit from the increased capacity of the network.

In addition to allowing institutions to download information quickly, the network is also expected to aid collaboration because it will drastically reduce the time it takes to connect education bodies and services.

“The big fat pipes will allow better distribution of content, more remote learning and better sharing of resources,” Mr Richardson said.