Cignal, the country’s newest provider of telecommunications infrastructure, will invest €25 million over the next two years in building new telecommunications infrastructure. The capital investment programme to build 300 new towers will help improve the availability of high-speed Wireless Broadband in rural areas and help mobile phone operators address coverage blackspots. This investment in tower infrastructure represents the single biggest rollout of new towers in the last 10 years.
Cignal currently has a portfolio of over 450 towers, representing almost 20% of the Irish market for infrastructure supporting mobile, fixed wireless broadband communications and broadcast services. The planned investment will cover every county with sites constructed on ‘Build to Suit’ contracts and leased back to mobile phone and wireless broadband operators.
This initiative will address the objectives of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce established by the Government in 2016 to identify solutions to broadband and mobile phone coverage deficits across the country. The Taskforce has led to a Broadband Officer being appointed in every local authority, helping to improve the level of engagement with telecoms operators and infrastructure providers like Cignal to clear obstacles in the rollout of network investments.
Speeds of greater than 150mbps are now possible through Mobile and Fixed Wireless Broadband solutions, compared to 20mbps five years ago, meaning video streaming, social media, HD movie downloads and other bandwidth hungry applications can be supported without lengthy buffering or loss of connection. Nonetheless continuous investment is required given ComReg’s forecast that the demand for mobile data in Ireland will grow at an average of 32% per year up to 2022*.
The investment plans were welcomed by Minister of State for Natural Resources, Community Affairs and Digital Development Sean Canney TD:
“I welcome today’s announcement by Cignal. The construction of 300 new towers represents a significant investment in network infrastructure, which will assist in addressing mobile phone coverage blackspots and the availability of wireless broadband across rural Ireland. The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce has been actively working since 2016 to tackle barriers to telecommunications infrastructure roll out and to improve access for all citizens to the digital services they deserve.
“The investment by Industry of €2.75 billion over the last five years in upgrading networks and services and the new investment of €25 million by Cignal in tower infrastructure will further contribute to the elimination of blackspots, widen the availability of 5G wireless broadband technology, and marks a step closer to the delivery of reliable, high-quality services to every corner of the country. I look forward to hearing of continued investment by others in this exciting time for the sector.”
Cignal’s Chief Executive Colin Cunningham said:
“We are pleased to announce our plans to invest €25m to add 300 towers to our existing portfolio. This infrastructure provides the platform from which operators can deliver high-speed broadband and mobile services to their consumers. Though our strategy of hosting equipment for multiple operators on each tower they can provide a much more cost-efficient service. With offices based in Galway & Dublin we are currently active in every county in Ireland with new sites coming on line every month.’’
Cignal’s Chairman Donal O’Shaughnessy said:
We see our investment programme as providing the backbone upon which operators will be able to provide high-speed broadband via wireless technology to thousands of households, schools and businesses who are currently unable to enjoy the high speeds and access to video on demand that is now the norm in urban areas. Recent investments in Laois, Meath, Wicklow and Kilkenny have helped transform phone users service and we have a list of target locations where operators are keen to see towers installed so they can improve their coverage.”
A recent new tower built in Longwood GAA club Co. Meath has provided a massive boost to the mobile coverage in the area. Additional operator services are due to be rolled out over the coming weeks which will further enhance the services being offered for both mobile & fixed wireless broadband service to the area.
Longwood GAA Club Chairperson Amanda Dixon said:
“We are pleased to support Cignal’s investment plans which we recognise as a valuable development for the surrounding community. As a result of the agreement we conducted with Cignal, the club has funds available to invest in upgrading its facilities. The club found Cignal very straight forward to deal with during the whole process, and the feedback from club members is that they have noticed a significant improvement in mobile phone coverage in the area.’’
Cignal is Ireland’s newest provider of telecommunications infrastructure, starting with its acquisition of 300 telco towers from Coillte in 2015. Since then it has spent €15m on additional acquisitions and organic expansion to add a further 150 sites. Cignal agreed a refinancing and expansion of its banking facilities with Bank of Ireland and AIB. The €65m credit facility will help provide the funding for the capital investment programme announced today.
Cignal’s investment programme has been supported by its majority shareholder Infravia Capital Partners, a specialist infrastructure investor managing over €4bn in assets. In Ireland Infravia has acquired hospital group the Mater Private and nursing homes operator CareChoice.