Row erupts over Eir’s new rural broadband network

Rivals say they are unable to connect customers to company’s new fibre network

Eir denied there was an issue with the rollout of fibre to 300,000 homes. Photograph: Alan Betson

Eir denied there was an issue with the rollout of fibre to 300,000 homes. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A row has broken out in the telecoms industry over the quality of Eir’s new fibre broadband network to 300,000 rural households which were formerly part of the State-backed National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The homes were controversially removed from the NBP at the last minute in 2017 and placed into Eir’s commercial rollout plan as part of an agreement between the Government and the former semi-State.

The move, however, triggered the exit from the NBP of Eir’s rival Siro and eventually Eir itself and is blamed for making the procurement process uncompetitive.

Despite Eir’s claims that it has successfully completed the project, passing the 300,000 homes with its fibre product, non-Eir operators using the network claim there are insufficient “drop points” to connect prospective customers.

They also claim that “fail rates” on the network where operators try to connect customers but fail are as high as 12 per cent. Their grievances were aired at Eir’s own industry product forum on Wednesday, according to industry sources.

Issue

Eir denied there was an issue with the rollout of fibre to 300,000 homes. “Open Eir [the company’s wholesale arm] has not to date encountered a significant issue with the availability of drop points within the 300,000,” a spokesman said. A spokesperson for the Department of Communications was not available.

Eir threw a grenade into the NBP process earlier this year by claiming it could complete the project for less than €1 billion, a third of what the State plans to spend with preferred bidder Granahan McCourt. The company based the estimate on the cost of rolling out its product to the 300,000 homes. It claims that the Government’s NBP contract is too exacting.

Under the NBP rules, Eir would have to set up a new wholesale division to sell the fibre access to retail providers.

It would also only be able to charge €100 per connection instead of €170 and be required to fix 90 per cent of faults within a maximum of two days. These stipulations make the contract too financially onerous, Eir has said on several occasions.