Exclusive: Ireland’s €1.1bn national wholesale network to start building in September

Exclusive: Ireland’s €1.1bn national wholesale network to start building in September

Work on building Ireland’s €1.1 billion wholesale national broadband network is expected to start in September.

The Irish government is close to awarding the official contract to a consortium of Enet, which already operates metro networks in Ireland, SSE, a UK energy company that has a telecoms business, and John Laing, a UK infrastructure investor.

“The government says it wants the deal signed by September,” said David McCourt, chairman of Enet. “The government wants to see construction starting right away in September.”

Each of the three main partners will put €100 million in to the project, with a further €200 million for design and construction, “and probably €600 million in bank debt”, said McCourt, speaking today to Capacity. He is also chairman and CEO of Granahan McCourt, which owns 25% of Enet.

On top of that there will be “a couple of billion in subsidies” from the Irish government and perhaps from the European Commission, he said.

McCourt was speaking to Capacity to promote his new book, Total Rethink, which is already a best-seller in Ireland and is being published this week in the UK – and in the US in September. McCourt is a serial cable and telecoms entrepreneur: in the 1990s he was involved in MFS Networks, which was bought by WorldCom.

His book, which is subtitled “Why entrepreneurs should act like revolutionaries”, is about the fast-moving state of the industry. “The world is moving so fast that people have to think in revolutionary terms,” he said. “We have to blow up the entire model.”

In Ireland, the last rival to the Enet-SSE-Laing consortium for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) was Eir, the incumbent, which pulled out earlier this year.

“We’re negotiating the contract with the government now,” McCourt told Capacity this morning. The consortium still has no brand: “The government says it has to have a new name and brand.” The consortium will make a presentation to the government by 10 July.

This is to create a clear separation between the NBP business and Enet, which runs 94 metro networks across Ireland under contract from the government. “The government paid for them. You will see more and more government intervention in metro networks. The model is going to move more and more to fibre as a utility.”

But the NBP consortium has already appointed former Rogers Communications executive Michael Adams to head the construction project, McCourt told Capacity. “He knows about rural broadband. He’s looking after the design and build of the NBP. He’s very talented.”

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