Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin has announced the second phase of SIRO’s rollout of its Gigabit broadband network, which will nearly double its reach to 770,000 homes and businesses.
SIRO, a joint venture between Vodafone and ESB, is Ireland’s only 100% fibre-optic network. €620 million in funding has been secured through the European Investment Bank and a syndicate of Irish and international lenders, which will be invested in expanding the availability of SIRO’s services, as well as upgrading all its existing infrastructure for 2 Gigabit capacity – double the speed of the most powerful broadband services in Ireland today.
The upgrade to SIRO’s infrastructure comes in response to increased data demands due to a shift to remote working and a spike in interest for online services in areas like education and healthcare. It will see the operator reaching more than 2.1 million more people in 154 towns across Ireland. This, in turn, will power regional development and help households become more sustainable in areas such as remote working and reduced commuting.
The expansion will also bolster SIRO and Vodafone’s Gigabit Hub initiative, which currently provides a 1 Gigabit broadband connection to 16 remote working and enterprise centres across Ireland, allowing professionals to work remotely and help broadening the appeal of communities in regional Ireland to companies looking to relocate their company outside of major cities.
For example, since the 2016 launch of the Ludgate Hub in the small rural town of Skibbereen, the town has become the digital hub of West Cork as Gigabit connectivity empowered the local community to think differently about what you can achieve in a regional town. Full details of the expanded Gigabit Hub initiative will be announced in the coming weeks.
The additional funding will bring SIRO’s total investment in its Gigabit broadband network to in excess of €1 billion. €170 million of the funding will be provided by the European Investment Bank alone in line with the European Commission’s "Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market – Towards a Gigabit Society" strategy to deploy market leading broadband services to meet the future needs for Europe’s digital economy and society.
Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary said: “We are proud today that SIRO, our joint venture with ESB, has announced plans for a second phase, bringing fibre broadband to even more people, businesses and communities across Ireland. It has never been more important to advance critical digital infrastructure that supports business transformation and connected communities to embed longer-term societal resilience. COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to re-imagine what is possible and to accelerate digital transformation for citizens, communities, business and future proof our economy. The last 18 months have proven how crucial connectivity is to this.
“It will enable the next generation of businesses in Ireland to remain competitive globally and to capitalise on new opportunities to grow and scale from wherever they are based. It will allow rural communities to thrive and become more sustainable by facilitating remote working from home, or through hybrid models, it will support new business growth and development as well as connected education and healthcare. This announcement today is not just a commitment to delivering high-speed connectivity, it a commitment to our economy and society - and to future generations”.
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