Vodafone and ESB yesterday welcomed European Commission approval of the creation of a joint venture company to deliver a 100% fibre-to-the-building broadband network for the first time in Ireland. The open access network, which will be available to all authorised broadband operators in the country, will help to propel Ireland into the ranks of the world’s fastest broadband countries and open up a new world of possibilities for Irish consumers and businesses.

ESB and Vodafone are investing €450M in the joint venture, which will utilise ESB’s existing electricity infrastructure to deliver the fibre-to-the-building network across the country. The 100% fibre-to-the-building network will offer broadband speeds from 200 Mbps to 1000 Mbps, initially reaching 500,000 premises in 50 towns in phase one.

The two companies will now go about formally establishing the joint venture. Network roll-out will commence early next year and phase one is expected to be complete by the end of 2018, with further scope for a second phase thereafter. The first technical trials of the technology are already underway in two estates in Cavan town.  

While the ESB and Vodafone joint venture will build and manage the fibre-to-the-building network, open access will be offered to all authorised operators in Ireland on a wholesale basis. This means that other operators can resell the fibre product to their customers, helping to stimulate the development of new services and boosting retail competition in the broadband market for all Irish consumers and businesses.

The Commission’s decision was welcomed by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White TD, who said: “This decision is great news for Irish broadband customers and providers as it will drive competition in the sector, while giving 50 towns nationwide access to a market leading, future proofed broadband service. It’s an important project which complements the Government’s National Broadband Plan to ensure that all of Ireland’s regions have access to fast broadband.”

“It is also hugely significant in terms of the National Digital Strategy which aims to get more small businesses online. High speed broadband is a crucial element for Ireland’s future competitiveness and this project will help ensure that Ireland is better connected than most countries in the world.”

“It’s a very ambitious project from two leaders in innovation that has received the endorsement of the Commission. I’ve no doubt that the venture will be highly successful and I wish ESB and Vodafone well as they move to the next phase and establish the company.”

Pat O’Doherty, Chief Executive of ESB, said: “This is a huge milestone for ESB. We have invested €6 billion in recent years in transforming and modernising Ireland’s electricity grid, so that it can deliver this type of service. It’s consistent with ESB’s strategy of innovating, modernising and working in collaboration with other industry leaders.”

“The fibre-to-the-building broadband network will be the most significant development in Ireland’s broadband sector to date and will be a real boost for regional Ireland and the economy as a whole. We will create an entirely new type of connectivity – seamless, instant and powerful – so that people in towns like Cavan can have the same amazing online experience as Tokyo. I look forward to the establishment of the company with Vodafone and to progressing with roll-out to enable Irish businesses and consumers to take advantage of a new world of possibilities.

Anne O’Leary, Vodafone Ireland CEO said, “This project is consistent with Vodafone’s strategy of investing in ambitious projects and technology to deliver the most innovative services. This open-access network, made possible by the coming together of two strong established brands – Vodafone and the ESB, will revolutionise consumers and businesses’ experience of broadband.” 

“The fibre-to-the-building network will provide a vital boost for the Irish business community, particularly in regional areas, by getting more companies online, enabling them to develop new products and services, creating new international trade opportunities and attracting more FDI to Ireland.”

This is the list of locations included in the first phase:

Arklow, Wicklow

Letterkenny, Donegal

Athlone, Westmeath

Limerick City

Balbriggan, Dublin

Little Island, East Cork

Ballina, Mayo

Longford, Longford

Ballincollig, Cork

Mallow, Cork

Bray, Wicklow

Maynooth/Kilcock, Kildare

Carlow, Carlow

Midleton, Cork

Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim

Monaghan, Monaghan

Carrigaline, Cork

Mullingar, Westmeath

Castlebar, Mayo

Naas/Johnstown/Sallins, Kildare

Cavan, Cavan

Navan, Meath

Celbridge, Kildare

Newbridge, Kildare

Clonmel, Tipperary

Portlaoise, Laois

Cobh, Cork

Roscommon, Roscommon

Cork City

Shannon, Clare

Drogheda, Louth

Skerries / Rush, Dublin

Dundalk, Louth

Sligo, Sligo

Ennis, Clare

Swords /Malahide/Portmarnock, Dublin

Enniscorthy, Wexford

Tralee, Kerry

Galway City

Tramore, Waterford

Gorey, Wexford

Tullamore, Offaly

Greystones, Wicklow

Waterford City

Kilkenny, Kilkenny

Westport, Mayo

Killarney, Kerry

Wexford, Wexford

Leixlip, Kildare

Wicklow, Wicklow