Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, today unveiled HQTralee as the first business hub to receive two years of free gigabit fibre broadband from Vodafone and SIRO as part of the companies’ national Gigabit Hub Initiative.
HQTralee is a business and innovation centre located in the heart of County Kerry, which at present houses 18 local businesses, and was officially launched by the Minister at a special opening ceremony held at HQTralee today. Currently supporting 50 jobs, HQTralee will see this number double to 100 by July 2017.
The Gigabit Hub Initiative was announced last month and is open to qualifying hubs in 15 towns across the country. The six towns to be awarded free connectivity as part of the first phase of the initiative have been announced today as Tralee, Drogheda, Dundalk, Letterkenny, Cavan and Carlow. The successful hubs from each town will be announced over the coming weeks.
The initiative was created by Vodafone and SIRO in order to empower local businesses and communities through connected technologies. By providing world class fibre broadband connectivity into enterprise and community centres, the Gigabit Hub Initiative will enable towns across the country to strengthen and grow their rural communities by supporting regional job creation and positively impact local economies.
Vodafone and SIRO undertook research amongst the businesses based at HQTralee. All surveyed said that super-fast internet connectivity would substantially increase their productivity, and were confident that the provision of reliable 1 Gigabit per second broadband in regional hubs would encourage more companies to establish or relocate to smaller towns. They also believed its provision would make towns with access more attractive to Foreign Direct Investment by multinationals, and that the availability of gigabit fibre broadband would have a positive impact on the local economy and support existing local enterprises and local communities.
Nine in 10 of the enterprises surveyed said that they hoped to increase either full or part-time employment in the next 12 months and that the availability of high-speed broadband would lead to more people working online from home and result in an improved work-life balance. Over eight in 10 (83%) said that access to high-speed broadband had enhanced their own businesses, improved communication with their customers and business partners and made them more optimistic about the future.
Commenting at the launch, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor said: “It’s great to see the tangible effect that high speed broadband access can have on hubs such as HQTralee, where businesses can gain access to 1 Gigabit per second broadband and spur the dynamic and exciting entrepreneurship we see here today. The Government recognises the fundamental role that broadband can play as a critical enabler for business and jobs creation across Ireland and welcomes the excellent work being carried out by Vodafone and SIRO to support regional hubs and businesses across the country.”
Anne O’Leary, Chief Executive of Vodafone Ireland, added: “We are delighted to be in a position to support local businesses through vital hubs such as HQTralee. If this success is replicated across all six hubs, it has the potential to create up to 600 jobs across Ireland in 2017. The economic and social benefits that 1 Gigabit broadband connectivity can bring to companies in regional Ireland are almost incalculable. New job and business opportunities will allow people to pursue their careers in small towns across Ireland without sacrificing their quality of life, rather than being forced to move to cities or abroad. The Gigabit Society we are creating will mean offering employees better work-life balance, and most importantly, encourage our successful regional businesses to remain in Ireland and compete on a level playing field with the likes of Singapore and San Francisco.”
Stephen O’Connor, Director of Corporate Affairs at SIRO, said: “As Ireland’s largest Fibre-to-the-Building provider, we are delighted to be helping to revitalise towns across Ireland. HQTralee and the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen illustrate the digital transformation that our 100% fibre-optic broadband network can spark and our Gigabit Hub Initiative will open up a new world of possibilities for the 15 towns involved. Strong, consistent connectivity will not only help attract new businesses to regional Ireland, it will also help Ireland’s young people create a future in the towns they call home instead of being forced to move abroad. With world-beating 100% fibre-optic broadband, new jobs can be created by international businesses or by Ireland’s next generation of home-grown entrepreneurs.”
Co-founder of HQTralee, Ken Tobin added: “We feel that there’s no reason why people shouldn’t be able to enjoy the lifestyle of living in a town like Tralee, but being able to take advantage of the same level of broadband connectivity as Hong Kong or Tokyo. Now thanks to Vodafone and SIRO, this dream is a reality as Tralee residents don’t have to compromise and can enjoy the perfect work-life balance. At HQTralee you can get 1 Gigabit broadband and still live within minutes of 10 beaches, the two highest mountains in Ireland, and Ireland’s top links golf course, and a tradition of culture, nightlife, food, arts, and sport – all within a one hour flight to Dublin and one-and-a-half-hour flight to London!”