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These are the 50 towns being targeted for a €450mn high-speed broadband plan

ESB and Vodafone are going 50:50 on the deal.

PastedImage-61136 The fifty towns in the first phase of ESB and Vodafone's fibre broadband plan. Source: Google Maps

[View interactive map]

ESB AND VODAFONE are to invest over €450 million in a new fibre broadband network they say will bring broadband speeds of between 200 to 1000 Mbps to an initial 50 towns.

The deal will see ESB’s lines and masts being used to transport fibre cables and will reach about 500,000 homes and businesses as part of the first phase.

Subject to approval from the European Commission, work will start on new network in the coming months with the first customers gaining access from the start of  2015 and a completion date of end-2018.

The new 100% fibre network will be available for other telecom providers to sell wholesale onto customers.

The deal was made possible by legislation passed earlier this year that allowed ESB’s infrastructure to be used for additional purposes.

ESB and Vodafone are splitting the deal on a 50:50 basis with Vodafone chosen as ESB’s partner following a tendering process. ESB CEO Pat O’Doherty described the deal with Vodafone as a “milestone for Ireland”.

“The fibre broadband network will be a key enabler for a knowledge-based, services-led economy that will help to attract investment to Ireland,” he said. “This fibre infrastructure will use ESB’s existing electricity infrastructure, maximising the use of state assets to the benefit of Irish society.

Speaking on RTÉ this morning, Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said that, because of the huge divide between urban and rural internet speeds, the Government was forced to become involved:

The gap is in danger of growing wider between urban Ireland and rural Ireland and therefore, given that the commercial sector is providing ferociously competitive and quality service in urban Ireland, the commercial sector won’t go into provincial areas the state must intervene.

ESB And Vodafone - Invest 450 Million Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has confidence in the Government's plans. Source: Sam Boal

The minister was referring to the Government’s own plans to improve internet connectivity in rural areas, today’s announcement from ESB and Vodafone was a separate commercial initiative, he explained.

But Rabbitte did repeat the Government’s plan to have high-speed broadband to half the population by 2015:

“I think it will (happen) and if it doesn’t it won’t miss it by much because the progress made in the past few years has been quite dramatic. I mean the Eircom investment alone, which will see fibre pass 1.4 million premises in the country, is a real real step-up and a major contribution by Eircom in a country that has 2.2 million residential premises.

In response to today’s announcement, Eircom has said that it remains fully committed to its own plan to deliver on their €400 million investment mentioned by the minister.

The say the plan will reach 70% of the country.

Eircom added that following the ESB/Vodafone deal they too will seek access to the ESB infrastructure with a view to developing their own joint venture.

The fifty towns in the first phase of the ESB/Vodafone plan

Arklow, Letterkenny, Athlone, Limerick City, Balbriggan, Little Island, Ballina, Longford, Ballincollig, Mallow,  Bray, Maynooth/Kilcock, Carlow, Midleton, Carrick-on-Shannon, Monaghan, Carrigaline, Mullingar, Castlebar, Naas/Johnstown/Sallins, Cavan, Navan, Celbridge, Newbridge, Clonmel, Portlaoise, Cobh, Roscommon, Cork City, Shannon, Drogheda, Skerries / Rush, Dundalk, Sligo, Ennis, Swords /Malahide/Portmarnock, Enniscorthy, Tralee, Galway City, Tramore, Gorey, Tullamore, Greystones, Waterford City, Kilkenny, Westport, Killarney, Wexford, Leixlip, Wicklow.

Read: Rural Ireland’s dodgy broadband is going to get sorted according to the Communications Minister >

Read: Sorry, country folk: Still a huge divide between urban and rural internet speeds >

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Rónán Duffy

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