Imagine Communications today officially launched its commercial rollout of high-speed 150Mbps broadband to homes and communities across regional and rural Ireland. The launch took place in Dublin city centre and was attended by elected representatives and consumer, community and business leaders.

At the launch Imagine announced it is to invest over €300 million in a 5G Fixed Broadband Network which will finally bring high-speed 150Mb broadband to over 1 million homes and businesses across regional and rural Ireland. The announcement today follows on from an announcement last year of a partnership with global asset management group Brookfield and funding to roll out high-speed broadband across underserved areas of the country.

Imagine announced its plans to be the first to deliver 150Mbps broadband to the majority of the 1.6 million homes and businesses outside of the main urban centres already serviced by a cable broadband service, where customers are waiting years for the promised upgrade of existing copper networks to fibre to the home (FTTH) to get future proofed high-speed broadband. However, unlike previous announcements, Imagine’s initial investment and rollout of high-speed broadband will focus on the underserved regional and rural areas.

Imagine aims to make the service available to as many people, in as many areas, as quickly as possible. The plan will see 325 sites built to cover 1.1 million premises within 18 months, with additional sites to be added to meet demand as it arises. In what will be welcome news for rural users, anxiously awaiting the outcome of the review of the National Broadband Plan, this will include in the first 18 months delivering service to over 400k of the 540k premises where there was no planned investment by other commercial operators.

Having already deployed a pilot network in 55 areas around the country the company announced that it had already started to build out the network and connecting customers and that the service will be live and available in 155 areas across all 26 counties by June of this year.

Commenting on the rollout Sean Bolger said “Despite announcements of investments of over €1.2 Billion over the last 5 years and the promise of the rollout of Fibre to the Home, by the end of the 3rd quarter of last year, only 75k customers have been actually connected. This is not a problem that is unique to Ireland, the reality is that rolling out fibre to every home, is a lot more expensive and takes a lot more time than people expected and will take years to deliver even in urban areas, let alone rural areas. As an Irish company, we are delighted to announce this significant investment and a new approach which will finally solve this problem and deliver much needed, fast and reliable high-speed broadband to homes, businesses and communities across regional and rural Ireland, today and into the future.”

The company confirmed people will be able to register their interest in the service online and will be updated on the progress of the rollout. It will publish quarterly updates detailing all areas connected, also outlining the next areas under its rolling connection programme.

“Our experience on the ground and during the trial is that people have grown very cynical of the continuous announcements and empty promises. Actually turning up, delivering what we promised and meeting customers’ expectations was a key factor in the success of the commercial pilot.”

“Our priority as we roll out the network is to extend our coverage to as many people as possible and with an initial service offering of up to 150Mbps” added Mr Bolger.

Commenting at the launch, Mr Bolger said “With the early release of the 5G 3.6Ghz spectrum, which has become the “Pioneer” spectrum for 5G, Ireland is in a position to become a centre of excellence and leader of innovative 5G solutions which are enabling and defining the future Digital Economy. However, without a national fibre backhaul infrastructure, the full potential of 5G innovation, especially in rural areas will not be achieved. What we need is a joined-up approach between Government, ComReg, operators and industry to define a new Digital Strategy and a coordinated approach to fibre and 5G infrastructure investment.”

The investment by Imagine in the pilot network in 2016 provided the test bed and benchmark for the optimisation of evolving 4G and 5G Fixed Broadband solutions with global industry equipment vendors, partners and operators across the world, establishing Imagine as an internationally recognised innovator in the sector.

Ultimately this led to the partnership with Brookfield and today’s announcement of a significant investment in the Irish economy and high-speed broadband services which will support thousands of businesses and change peoples’ lives all across Ireland.

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