Ireland subsidises FttX to rural areas



blog If all you know about Ireland is sourced from St Patrick’s Day festivities, then you might be surprised to learn that internationally the country is considered a centre for technology innovation, largely because its Government has continually invested in the industry through favourable taxation laws and investment. In the newest move to come from this island nation, broadband is the focus. Irish technology news site Siliconrepublic — kind of the Delimiter for Ireland — tells us (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has said his department has Cabinet sign-off on a €512m plan to ensure 1,100 villages in areas commercial operators don’t consider viable will be connected to future-proofed fibre networks.”

In many ways, the investment and Rabbitte’s comments demonstrate precisely how Australia’s telecommunications industry could have been best regulated, if our own Government could have taken a long-term stable view of the sector.

Using predominantly Fibre to the Node technology (also called Fibre to the Cabinet in Europe), Ireland’s monopoly telco Eircom is currently blanketing the country with high-speed broadband up to 100Mbps, with more than a dozen retail ISPs selling services on top. It’s likely that this rollout will eventually be upgraded to a full Fibre to the Premises deployment down the track as the need for higher speeds becomes evident. Many metropolitan regions also have access to a HFC cable network providing speeds up to 200Mbps through another telco, UPC. And Ireland also has 3G mobile broadband available, with competitive 4G services currently being launched.

If Australia’s Government had curtailed Telstra from overbuilding Optus’ HFC cable network back in the late 1990’s and had structurally separated Telstra into wholesale and retail arms, or at least set higher degrees of regulation around the telco’s existing operational separation, Australia’s broadband situation might be advancing as fast as Ireland’s. Then it would be logical for a direct subsidy such as Rabbitte announced last week to support broadband in rural areas.

Instead, we have a dog’s breakfast of technologies being very slowly rolled out which almost nobody is happy about, and the Federal Government ending up owning a mess of a national broadband operator with an incredibly inconsistent and highly regulated mix of services which may or may not end up being a monopolist. Fantastic. I think I need another Guinness. Or five.


  1. While I don’t mind the occasional Guinness, I’m a Murphy’s fan myself. :-)
    I completely share the sentiment, though.

  2. Dear Turnbull. Rather than push forward with your NBN as is, how about you split up Telstra on a horizontal level? Structural separation. Not doing that is a mistake your party made that’s distorted the free market you so utterly pretend to love when in fact you don’t at all.

    Get it to sell its copper and HFC network to the states and/or water/electricity boards. Who’d be better to manage it, especially when it transitions towards fibre, than Sydney Water or Ausgrid? Energex or SEQwater? It’s worked overseas. Do the same with NBN Co assets. Lease/sell HFC to Ausgrid and FTTH+copper to Sydney Water. Let them handle the infrastructure, they’re already managing a pretty big pile of it in the same area. Synergies is the word, I believe. Subsume Telstra’s contractors in that direction. If the state governments want, let them partner with iiNet or Optus or Macquarie or whatnot up to 50%, but no more. Let state governments set the wholesale prices like with water or electricity.

    And then do rural subsidies that provide for at least ADSL2+ coverage out to 95% percent of the population and fixed 3G/satellite for the rest. Provide co-funding in low interest loans for FTTH or FTTdp expansions. Let that be the majority of what the federal government will do. Oh, and setting an upper boundary for wholesale prices and forcing networks to wholesale up to a certain contention ratio.

    But, no, there’s too many ex-Telstra folk on the NBN board for that.

    You can get rid of it! Labor might even support you! Let the states handle this shit – they’re already handling the sewage! Fibre over water pipes? Sure, go for it? String HFC on electricity poles? Go nuts! Put the fibre into your smart meter which now doubles as a modem and has an RJ45 port coming out of it? Why not! Let the state government deal with this! Campbell wanted to put fibre down into Brisbane’s sewers before NBN came along. Let him do it!

    At least this will save our broadband infrastructure from being in the hands of such utter incompetency as displayed by the coalition and, to frankly quite a lesser degree, Labor. And even Telstra’s out of the picture! Bliss!

  3. i’ll take five kilkennys, thanks.

    i need em.

    and i see the same thing as in the 2nd last para – the pernicious effects of decisions made 20Y past are hanging over us still – it was bad enough the first time; depressing in the extreme to repeat it again.

    five isnt enough to anaesthetise yet but its a damn good start…. /retires to a quiet corner to reflect on what could have been…

  4. But what you have to remember over here in Ireland, there is a general election coming up in 2 years so the politicians will come up with this baloney to stay in power…so many false promises, I wouldn’t believe a word of it…

    Where I live in Ireland, we don’t even have clean drinking water….They wont tell u that…

  5. I’m not sure how to take this article. The ” is considered a centre for technology innovation” should have been prefixed by “was” as the moment the free rent and subsidised tax regimes ended a lot of the industry just went to spain who started their own subsidisation scheme to become an IT hub like Ireland. By the time the GST Ireland had a remnant declining industry and government with huge debt. Do I need to point out that both Ireland and Spain are part of the PIGS group of economic basket cases. As for the article and responses trying to point to any positives versus the Australian experience if you read the article it effectively is the Australian experience (albeit in a much smaller landmass eqivalent to a state). They are not rolling fibre to the home but will do so when the time is right. That is straight out of NBN strategy chapter 2.

    Also this is “Fibre to the Node technology (also called Fibre to the Cabinet in Europe)” That is the SAME as NBN chapter 2. So I can’t see why there is anything either to brag about nor denigrate the current NBN plan for there yet most respondents have clearly tried. Hell they are even leveraging the HFC and 3G/4G networks as part of the strategy. Pot – I’d like you to meet kettle.

    • The difference is Ireland is doing it through correct Government regulation of the telecommunications industry; without the chaos we are seeing in Australia. The Govt set the framework — as a consequence, industry is investing.

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