Ireland one of priciest developed countries for broadband

Average cost of €60.57 a month compares with €16.16 in Poland

Irish broadband: quality of service is a pressing issue for thousands of households. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Irish broadband: quality of service is a pressing issue for thousands of households. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

 

Ireland is one of the most expensive countries in the developed world for broadband, with prices here almost four times those in the cheapest country in the European Union, a new global survey has revealed.

Average monthly prices in the State came in at €60.57, a figure that put the State in 127th position, a long way behind the cheapest country, Iran, where broadband costs an average of €4.57, according to an analysis of more than 3,350 broadband packages in 196 countries the British research firm BDRC Continental and cable.co.uk between August and October. The cheapest country in the European Union was Poland, where the average monthly price was €16.16.

The Republic was the sixth-dearest developed country for broadband. Only Malta (€83.27), Liechtenstein (€75.42), Norway (€69.70), Switzerland (€69.17) and Iceland (€61.61) were reported to be more expensive. The average monthly cost of broadband in the UK was €34.59.

Six of the 10 countries where broadband is cheapest were formerly part of the Soviet Union, now collectively known as the Commonwealth of Independent States, including the Russian Federation itself.

At the other end of the table sub-Saharan Africa fared worst overall, with almost all the 31 countries in the region in the most expensive half of the table, and 16 of them in the most expensive quarter. Burkina Faso was reported to be the most expensive place for broadband, with an average package price of €818.50 per month, putting it beyond all but the wealthiest people there.

Italy was the cheapest place in western Europe for broadband, with an average monthly price of €24.53, followed by Germany (€28.96) and Denmark (€30.50).

“Our data demonstrates that, when it comes to broadband, both the national marketplace and the infrastructure that underpins it are imperfect no matter where you live,” said Dan Howdle of cable.co.uk.

Price increases

The cost of broadband is unlikely to become any more competitive in Ireland in the months ahead, as the leading providers are rolling out price increases. Last month Sky said it had started contacting its customers; average bills are set to increase for some of its subscribers by €2-€4 a month from December 1st. Those affected are currently on older tariffs or special offers.

Vodafone Ireland has also confirmed it is to increase prices from December for some customers on older tariffs, including Simply Talk, which is rising from €30 a month to €40, and Simply Broadband, which is rising by €7 a month.

Virgin Media is also rolling out price increases of €5 a month early in the new year.

Although the high cost of broadband is a concern for many, the quality of the service – or the lack of one – is arguably even more pressing for thousands of households. A total of 840,000 premises that have been identified as needing high-speed broadband are not covered by existing providers.

Under the Government’s National Broadband Plan more than 90 per cent of premises will have access to high-speed broadband by 2020, although critics have pointed out that promises have been made by previous administrations only to be broken.

Eir is connecting about 10,000 homes a month to its broadband network at present; 540,000 more isolated premises are to be covered by the Government’s “amber area” scheme, for commercially unviable locations.

Mount Briscoe: broadband speed can be a hindrance for Margaret Edgill’s business
Mount Briscoe: broadband speed can be a hindrance for Margaret Edgill’s business

HOW BROADBAND PROBLEMS AFFECT BUSINESSES

Mount Briscoe

Mount Briscoe is an organic farm just outside Daingean, Co Offaly. It operates as an Airbnb destination and event venue, and sells handmade gifts, such as wreaths and seasonal and artisanal foods, online and in person. Its rural location is deemed to be part of its charm, but the area’s poor broadband can also be a hindrance.

Margaret Edgill, who runs the business, says the standard of broadband in rural Ireland is “beyond pathetic”. “If I want to send a message or just to chat, it’s okay, but if I want to upload a photo, handle bookings or do any sort of graphic design it is a sheer nightmare,” she says. “It’s not that we don’t get stuff; it’s just the delay. It could take four hours to do something I should be able to do in 10 minutes. Time is money.”

Their broadband often stops altogether, and Ms Edgill has to drive to Tullamore library, 25 minutes away, to use its wifi to manage bookings.

San Antoine: “The more people on the network, the slower the speeds,” says Alan Landers of the Cahirciveen B&B
San Antoine: “The more people on the network, the slower the speeds,” says Alan Landers of the Cahirciveen B&B

San Antoine B&B

Before broadband came to Cahirciveen, in Co Kerry, a group of locals provided wifi for the area via a satellite dish funded through the European Space Agency.

“It was in the early 2000s. We set up a satellite link in the old technical school,” says Alan Landers, one of the group, who owns San Antoine B&B. “We broadcast the signal over the water, which they said we couldn’t do, so we proved them wrong. Once you were in the line of the aerials you could pick it up.”

The satellite allowed locals to share a 1Mbps service, which later increased to 2Mbps and even 4Mbps – up to 70 times faster than the 56Kbps dial-up service that most residents had been using beforehand.

Then, after two years, Eircom brought fibre broadband to the area. “It was rolled out in Cahirciveen before it was in Killarney,” says Mr Landers, who claims the telephone company “didn’t want the competition” of the locals’ satellite service.

The area now has four fibre cabinets; the closer customers are to a cabinet, the faster their broadband should be. The fastest speed should be 100Mbps, but as most of the area still uses copper wiring for the final part of the connection, between the cabinet and the house, the fastest speeds in practice are only about 50Mbps. And, according to Mr Landers, “The more people on the network, the slower the speeds.”

He says their broadband service hasn’t affected bookings for his business, as they mostly come through booking.com and Airbnb and are conducted via email, which works relatively well. “It’s more uploads and downloads that are the issue.”