Imagine plans €300m wireless broadband network

Investment to bring high-speed connectivity to rural parts of Republic

Imagine Communications chief executive Seán Bolger. The company is aiming to roll out a new 5G fixed broadband network within the next 18 months. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Imagine Communications chief executive Seán Bolger. The company is aiming to roll out a new 5G fixed broadband network within the next 18 months. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Imagine Communications plans to invest €300 million in a new wireless broadband network, which it says will bring high-speed connectivity to more than a million homes in rural parts of the Republic, including most of those covered by the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The company is aiming to roll out a new 5G fixed broadband network within the next 18 months, offering 150mbps broadband speeds to homes outside the main urban areas, many of which have only limited coverage or none at all.

In contrast to fibre, the broadband technology being deployed by most of the firms in the sector, Imagine uses a wireless technology, transmitting the broadband signal to individual households through a network of masts.

The company said it would have 155 broadband transmission sites live by June this year, with 325 sites live by June 2020.

Imagine secured an investment of €120 million to help roll out its infrastructure last year when Canadian investment firm Brookfield took a 50.1 per cent stake in the company.

The firm said, unlike other broadband investments, its rollout would focus on “underserved” regional and rural areas. It also said that some 400,000 homes and businesses currently earmarked for coverage under the Government’s NBP would be able to receive its service.

Fibre to the home

“Despite announcements of investments of over €1.2 billion over the last five years and the promise of the rollout of fibre to the home, by the end of the third quarter of last year only 75,000 customers have actually been connected,” Imagine chief executive Seán Bolger said.

“This is not a problem that is unique to Ireland. The reality is that rolling out fibre to every home is a lot more expensive and takes a lot more time than people expected and will take years to deliver even in urban areas, let alone rural areas,” he said.

Earlier this week, Eir boss Carolan Lennon said she expected the NBP to take up to seven years to complete, stretching out delivery to 2026.