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5/20/2013
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Ireland Launches New National Broadband Service

Network promises speeds of up 70 Mbps and could be in 60% of all businesses and homes by end of 2015.

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Irish telecommunications company Eircom has announced the deployment of a new €400 million ($608 million) national fiber-optic network it says is up 10 times faster than currently available broadband. The new network was available to roughly 300,000 homes and businesses on Monday, and Eircom said its goal was to double that number to 600,000 by the end of 2013. When fully deployed, in early 2015, the network will reach 1.2 million -- or 60% of -- Irish homes and businesses.

The new network will provide download speeds of up to 70 megabits per second, according to Eircom, a Dublin-headquartered firm. That means customers using the network will see a six to 10 time improvement in their current broadband download speeds, "transforming their online experience," said the company. Eircom said it will be the largest fiber-optic network in the country, and the speed will increase to 100 Mbps within the next year.

The network, officially switched on by Irish prime minister Enda Kenny at the end of last week, is open access, which means other providers can offer services on top. The company also says it will open the last mile to competitors, following a February ruling from the Irish communications regulator, ComReg, to bring the service into line with overall European Union strictures on broadband service provision.

[ What is Britain doing about its "not spots"? Read U.K. Appoints Builder Of Rural Mobile Booster Network. ]

At the time, ComReg noted that, "Next-generation broadband services will play an important role in the development of the Irish economy and society and will contribute to achieving the European and national targets for the EU Digital Agenda and National Broadband Plan."

Similar national renewal sentiments were echoed by Kenny at the launch event. "Superfast broadband will support new enterprise and investment that will in turn create new jobs across the country," he said. "By working together with industry partners and policy makers for the greater good of the country, Eircom is playing its part in rebuilding the country's economic competitiveness which will underpin our sustained recovery."

"Our network is good for consumers, good for businesses and good for Ireland," claimed Eircom group CEO Herb Hribar.

Hribar's new network is a combination of the two most popular fiber delivery options, so-called fiber to the cabinet, FTTC, and fiber to the premises, FTTP -- hence the combined moniker for the system, FTTx. The hybrid will use a mix of fiber and copper VDSL2 connections to deliver the promised superfast broadband to the country.

Like many European telcos, Eircom, which says it has a customer base of around two million, is looking for a hook to grab people's interest, a mission perhaps made more challenging given the fact so many people are still suffering the effects of the 2008 collapse of the "Celtic Tiger" economy.

In addition to building the new network, Eircom is working on launching a new IPTV service for the island, but so far there is no date for when that will be available. For now, it offers eFiber, the brand name for a set of bundled cell, landline and broadband access services to run off the new fast network. A current promotion offers the package for €24.79 ($31.88) to businesses and €40 ($51.46) for consumers.

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