Up to 500,000 homes and businesses in the country’s larger towns will have high-speed broadband after the European Commission cleared a joint proposal from the ESB and Vodafone.
The companies signed a joint venture agreement in July to spend about €450m in connecting up buildings with fibre cabling — using the ESB’s electricity infrastructure.
They will concentrate on bringing the service to 50 towns, all with more than 4,000 inhabitants, throughout the 26 counties and say the first customers should have the service by the start of next year.
Completing the full project will take some years, with the first phase expected to be completed by the end of 2018, according to the ESB.
The joint initiative will revolutionise internet speeds in most areas where they are currently as low as 10 Megabits per second, while the fibre connections will offer speeds from 200 Mbps to 1000 Mbps.
ESB and Vodafone will build and manage the network, however, access will be offered to all telecoms operators on a wholesale basis.
They in turn can offer it to their own customers.
The proposal had to be evaluated by the European Commission’s competition body as ESB is state owned, and is also the owner of the electricity network being used by Vodafone.
The commission said that the joint venture will not raise competition concerns because it will lead to the creation of a new network and a new entrant in the market for the wholesale of local network access.
It said: “The joint venture will not have the ability and incentive to exclude rivals of Vodafone by preventing their access to the new network, because it lacks the market to do so and because Vodafone’s rivals will still have access to other networks”.
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