E-net, the company contracted to run the Government’s metropolitan area networks (MANs) in 27 towns, has emerged as the proffered bidder for a second contract to manage the network in 66 additional towns.
Speaking in Dublin today, E-net chief executive Conal Henry said he hoped to agree a contract with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources by autumn.
He said the MANs for the 66 towns, with just a few exceptions, were already built. He said the construction costs were around €80 million, a similar amount to the sum required for the first 27.
He declined to comment on the length of the contact. The phase 1 contact for the first 27 towns runs for 15 years.
MANs are Government provided high-speed fibre-optic rings being built around towns to provide broadband internet services. The company today rejected criticisms that there has been a poor uptake or that it is replicating Eircom's infrastructure.
Mr Henry said 32 different telecoms providers were now using MANs to deliver broadband. UPC
"MANs are playing a vital role in promoting greater regional foreign direct investment (FDI) projects and over 600,000 people throughout Ireland now have telecommunications delivered daily using the MANs", he said.
Of this, 400,000 are mobile phone users, 90,000 are third level students with a further 17,000 public servants, he added.
In the year to April 2008 E-net reported an earnings before the deduction of interest, tax and amortization expenses loss of €0.5 million on revenues of €7.2 million.
Mr Henry said he expected the company to be profitable "before the end of this calendar year" and that revenues by April 2009 should reach €10 million. This projection does not assume the securing of the phase II contract.
Responding to questions Mr Henry said 24 of the 27 MAN enabled towns now have a "fully integrated and interconnected network".
E-net chairman Eoin O'Driscoll said MANs were established with the "clear objective of providing broadband in the regions".
He said the connectivity they provide was a "precondition to balanced regional development".
Their development was particularly crucial to growth of the services sector which was rapidly becoming the engine of growth for the Irish economy.
"Internationally traded services accounted for exports of €62 billion in 2007, about 42 per cent of all of our exports. In the next few years exports of services will in fact exceed exports of goods from Ireland," said Mr O'Driscoll.
To take advantage of the services area "people require a first class broadband infrastructure that allows people to connect to markets", he added.
Mr O'Driscoll is a governor of the Irish Times Trust.
A spokesman for the Department said MANs has played a significant role in directly and indirectly supporting the roll out broadband in the regions and attracting FDI into the regions.
"Maximising the potential advantages to service providers of existing State owned infrastructure is one of various objectives of the Minister's forthcoming consultation paper," he added.