Managing Director, open eir Wholesale
Managing Director, open eir Networks
Ireland has an ambitious plan when it comes to high-speed fibre broadband, and it is being led by a company on a mission to connect the country.
As Ireland emerges from the pandemic, it is clear that high-speed broadband has become essential for all aspects of life. Connecting towns, villages and cities with high-speed fibre broadband is critical to boost the economy; enabling inclusive prosperity and helping the country reach its sustainability goals.
open eir is responsible for the largest fixed telecoms network in Ireland and has already installed more than 13,000 kilometres of fibre broadband across rural and urban areas, serving 750,000 premises with a full fibre connection.
Meeting future challenges
Pre-pandemic speeds up to 100Mbs were more than adequate for most homes. However as working from home has become the norm, the demands for higher bandwidth has escalated ahead of what was initially forecasted, which means a full fibre connection with Gigabit speeds is required to meet the needs of the average family home.
Within five years, 84% of the country will be covered by open eir’s Gigabit Fibre network, with the remaining 16% to be delivered by the National Broadband Plan.
Approximately 40 communication services providers including Vodafone, Sky, BT, Pure Telecom and eNet, already access the company’s network, products and technical expertise. They offer services to the consumer, providing choice and competition.
“A few years ago, it was all about fibre to the cabinet but today it is fibre to the home (FTTH),” says Eavann Murphy, Managing Director of open eir Wholesale. “By 2026, Ireland will have almost 100% coverage, putting us ahead of, or on a par, with other European countries.”
She adds: “We have one of the youngest and best educated populations in Europe along with international technology companies coming to Ireland. This is about investing in the future to ensure the country remains attractive and successful.”
Initially the build was focused on rural premises, passing more than 340,000 homes and businesses; today open eir is focused on urban locations. High-speed fibre broadband is a future-proofed technology that can help Ireland to thrive; today customers can access speeds of up to 1 Gigabit, with 2 Gigabits being made available in high density locations.
Transforming connectivity in urban locations brings challenges, different types of buildings from single dwellings to apartment blocks all with varying fibre requirements. Nevertheless, open eir has now reached more than 750,000 properties, with an ultimate target of passing 1.9 million
Almost overnight we had to change the way we worked, implementing strict health and safety guidelines, but we never missed a single day in the field.Una Stafford
Impact of COVID-19
The ambition for a connected Ireland has become more pressing as the population adapts to living and working differently. Throughout the first year of the pandemic, the company continued to expand their fibre network, making Gigabit fibre available to an additional 200,000 homes and businesses.
Managing Director of open eir Networks, Una Stafford, says telecoms workers have been on the frontline as people remained at home during lockdowns and switched to working from home.
“Almost overnight we had to change the way we worked, implementing strict health and safety guidelines, but we never missed a single day in the field. We have literally never stopped,” she says.
“People won’t want to return to five days in the office or the long commute, connectivity enables people to live and work wherever they choose,” she says “connectivity is so important for Irish society in the long term.”
Finding the skills
To build such an extensive FTTH network takes time, money and skills. open eir knows it must continue to recruit and train the next generation of workers to ensure it meets its growth targets and delivers on its ambitions for Ireland.
“There are skill shortages across all sectors now,” says Stafford, “we need to ensure we can attract ambitious recruits. As an industry we need to take responsibility for training through apprenticeship programmes and develop roles to ensure career opportunities. It’s a competitive market out there and we are working to attract the best.”
Ireland can be a European leader when it comes to high-speed fibre broadband connectivity and, if it gets it right, the social and economic outlook is extremely positive.