Imagine fronts bid for rural broadband contract

Irish telco confirms it has financial backing of Australia’s largest investment bank

Irish broadband operator Imagine has teamed up with Australia's largest investment bank Macquarie to bid for the Government's €1.5 billion rural broadband contract.

The company confirmed it was fronting a consortium which included Macquarie Capital, the bank’s investment arm, and several other international investors in the race to win the business.

“Macquarie is the main financial partner in the project,” a spokesman told The Irish Times while declining to reveal the identity of the other investors.

The consortium submitted a pre-qualification questionnaire verifying its technical capability and financial clout to the Department of Communications last week ahead of a deadline for initial submissions.

Presuming it meets the relevant criteria, it will now enter a competitive dialogue process with the department before submitting a final bid later in the year.

The Government plans to award two subsidised contracts for the rollout of high-speed broadband to 750,000 homes later this year.

The scheme is likely to cost up to €1.5 billion.

Imagine, whose shareholders include investment group NTR, recently sold its Irish retail business, comprising up to 5,500 business customers, to rival telco Magnet to concentrate on the wholesale market.

Its bid for the Government’s National Broadband Plan is expected to utilise a mixture of wireless and fibre technology.


Gigabit Fibre, which was established last year with the aim of securing business under the proposed scheme, also confirmed its participation in the process.

The company, which was initially fronted by Danuta Gray, the former head of O2 Ireland, is being backed by Infracapital, the infrastructure investment arm of insurance giant Prudential.

The other three bidders, which were already known to be part of the process, are Eir, the State's largest telco; Siro, a joint venture between Vodafone and ESB; and fibre network operator Enet.

Eir has begun connecting 300,000 homes already earmarked for the State scheme to its new fibre network.

The former semi state expects to have up 100,000 hooked up by this time next year.

Eir confirmed it had submitted detailed documents including the geolocations of these 100,000 homes to the department.