Broadband Plan Setback As SIRO Pulls Out

26 Sep 2017 | 04.37 pm

Broadband Plan Setback As SIRO Pulls Out

Only two contenders left in National Broadband Plan tender

26 Sep 2017 | 04.37 pm

SIRO, the open-access broadband provider, has announced its withdrawal from the National Broadband Plan tender process.

The announcement was very much last-minute as proucurement submissions were due to be lodged with the Department of Communications by today.

In a statement the SIRO partners ESB and Vodafone said they cannot develop a competitive business case to justify continued participation in the NBP bid process and therefore have decided to withdraw. However, neither company explained why the numbers don’t add up.

SIRO said its original plan to build a 1 Gigabit broadband network in 50 regional Irish towns is unaffected by this decision and the company remains committed to regional Ireland.

The company claims to have invested over €100m over the last two years in building a Fibre-to-the-Building service and is on track to pass 100,000 homes and businesses by the end of September. “We will continue with our original plans focusing on transforming Ireland’s regional towns,” said CEO Sean Atkinson (pictured).

Anne O’Leary, Vodafone Ireland CEO, added: “The decision to withdraw was difficult, but it means the company can refocus its attention to building out the SIRO network further. With over 100,000 premises due to be passed at the end of the month and the level of sign-ups reaching as high as 20-25% in our early launch towns, there is clear commercial demand for Gigabit connectivity across regional Ireland.”

ESB chief executive Pat O’Doherty commented: “SIRO’s withdrawal from the National Broadband Plan tender process was made on the basis that SIRO was unable to make a business case for continued participation in the process.”

The sole remaining contenders in the NBP tender process are Eircom and the consortium made up of Granahan McCourt, Enet, SSE and John Laing Group. Today the Department of Communications received draft ‘detailed solutions’ submissions from these two bidders. “These submissions will now be assessed by the NBP team and bidders will be asked for their final tenders in the coming months,” said minister Denis Naughten.

Significant Milestone

Despite the SIRO withdrawal from the process, Naughten said the NBP procurement process has  reached a ‘significant milestone’.

The procurement aims to select a bidder or bidders who will roll out a 30MB broadband network to 542,000 premises in provincial and rural areas not served by commercial operators. The successful bidder will build, maintain and operate the so-called ‘State Intervention’ network for a 25 year period, subsidised by taxpayer funding.

SIRO’s withdrawal means that the competition for that subsidy has reduced, with the probable result that taxpayers will have to stump up more to subsidise rural broadband. In the meantime, the various broadband providers continue to cherry-pick rural towns, another factor which will effectively drive up the subsidy cost for broadband in their hinterlands.

“The facts are that close to 7 out of 10 premises now have access to high speed broadband,” Naughten claimed. “Within a year that will rise to nearly eight out of ten premises and by 2020 nine out of ten premises will have access to high speed broadband.

“Eir is on track to pass 101,000 rural premises by the end of this week. They are honouring their commitment under the agreement I signed with them last April and as a result the other players in the market have ramped up the speed of their roll-out.  Enet and SSE’s joint venture will invest €100 million in fibre broadband to 115,000 premises and  Virgin Media is expanding its network into 200,000 more premises across Ireland.”

The minister went on to claim that is ‘an undisputed fact’ that the National Broadband Plan has leveraged commercial investment of fibre broadband to over 900,000, including 28,200 farms.

 

 

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