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The National Broadband Plan – Maybe Tomorrow…

Whether the National Broadband Plan is scrapped or not, rural businesses seem to be left in a similarly unconnected position, and they can’t wait any longer.

Broadband providers have been increasingly hyping up internet speeds and growing bandwidth capabilities every year since we dropped dial-up over a decade ago, but as we approach a world where 1GB connections are starting to come as standard, speed is less and less a priority for businesses.

The move to the cloud and with it the fact that mission-critical applications, our ability to communicate with colleagues and customers, and everything in between relies on strong and consistent broadband connectivity, means reliability and resilience are now the top priority when investing in business broadband.

Speed and reliability are key factors when it comes to broadband, but they don’t matter an iota if you can’t get connected at all. It’s well documented how poorly Ireland’s broadband infrastructure serves our rural areas, and though the national broadband plan was drawn up to address this, in the six years since it was conceived, not much progress has been made on implementing it.

The time for waiting for government action is gone, we’ve far surpassed that. The time for action is now, and there are a lot of innovative companies out there that are jumping on these solutions to connect. They can’t wait any longer – they need to connect to the cloud, they need to get on the digital highway, and they can’t delay any more because it’s hindering their business. For indigenous Irish businesses, they can’t grow anymore because they cant connect to global markets digitally, said Damien McCann, director of sales and marketing of Viatel.

Wireless is one of the big alternatives for rural businesses – it can offer them high-speed connections without waiting around for fibre lines to be invested in and dug up. We have developed the capability of delivering wireless license and technology to effectively roll out fibre connectivity to any part of Ireland, using wireless, or fibre in the air as we call it. It’s the same speeds, the same service level agreement, the same 24/7 network operation support, and its delivering remarkable results to companies in rural Ireland.

We have a case study where we connected the Aran Islands with wireless technology and what’s the alternative there? That we run sub-sea fibre out to the Aran Islands, 18.5km at a cost of millions to connect 150 people and two businesses? It doesn’t make any sense. Instead we can roll out wireless connectivity for a couple of thousand euro and connect the whole island really quickly, in weeks not years.

A substantial amount of the cost of that wireless service actually goes back to the government. For wireless services like that, we have a ComReg license fee that goes to the regulator, a government agency: we have a rental from RTE, a government funded department, so a substantial cost of delivering this wireless service goes back to the government. I think there should be rebates or grants where rural businesses can apply to get connected using wireless point to point services, similar to an energy grant.

These kind of hybrid solutions have been transforming rural businesses in the absence of the national broadband plan roll-out. While in the past, a less stable connection may have done the job, today, with so many business functions digitized and most applications now running from the cloud, it can be the difference between remaining a small local business, and selling and competing on a more global scale.

To learn more about our case study connecting the Inis Meain Knitting Company watch the video below.


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