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Irish National Broadband Plan gets a speed boost

National Broadband Ireland has revealed that the minimum speed it will offer when it launches later this year will be 500 Mbps, more than three times higher than originally slated.

That’s a rare positive announcement from a national broadband scheme that was beset by endless delays and relentless criticism until its provider, National Broadband Ireland, inked the rollout contract with the government in November last year. (And actually gripes over the cost of the project and the structure of the deal still continue, although NBI has now started work surveying the ground across the country.)

The network will connect around 537,000 premises in areas of Ireland currently unserved by high-speed broadband to a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network. NBI will operate as a wholesaler, with a string of retail partners serving customers directly.

Last year NBI said its standard wholesale product would come in at 150 Mbps but has now upped this to 500 Mbps. It also reminded us that 1 Gbps packages will also be available to both homes and businesses when the network goes live.

Earlier this month the company announced that townlands around Carrigaline in County Cork will be the first to connect to the network. The very first connections will be Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) in public spaces such as community centres and libraries, starting in September, while the first homes are scheduled for connection in December. There have been some rumblings about build delays stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic though, so it will come as little surprise if NBI fails to meet that end-of-year goal.

“Since the global Covid-19 pandemic struck in Ireland over six months ago, many people’s lives have changed significantly and we are much more reliant on digital connectivity than ever before,” said Irish businessman and NBI executive chairman David McCourt, in a statement published late last week.

“Today’s announcement to increase our minimum speeds empowers every person, every school, every farm and every business in the Intervention Area to gain access to truly world-leading speeds and we are incredibly proud to be playing our part in bringing this to rural Ireland,” McCourt said.

What he didn’t say was why. But rumour has it that there was a competitive push behind NBI’s decision. According to the Irish Independent, the speed hike is linked to a price cut by Irish incumbent Eir, which is working hard to build up its own fibre customer base.

The telco has reportedly dropped the price of its 500 Mbps wholesale plan by €5 to put it on a par with its 150 Mbps offering, leaving NBI with little choice but to offer similar speed tiers at similar prices. The paper suggests NBI’s 500 Mbps plan will cost around €40 per month.

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