National broadband rollout a month ahead of schedule, committee hears

An Oireachtas committee heard that ‘real momentum’ had been built up after the rollout had been delayed earlier this year.
National broadband rollout a month ahead of schedule, committee hears

By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

There has been “real momentum” in delivering broadband to thousands of homes and businesses this year, an Oireachtas committee has heard – and the project is currently a month ahead of schedule.

In January, TDs heard that the company charged with rolling out rural broadband networks was running more than six months behind schedule because of the pandemic and other delays.

Revised targets were agreed with the Government to deliver broadband to 102,000 premises by January 2023.

On Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications received an update from Peter Hendrick, chief executive of National Broadband Ireland (NBI), and TJ Malone, chief executive of National Broadband Ireland Deployment, on the progress of the rollout of the National Broadband Plan.

In his opening statement, Mr Hendrick said: “I’m glad to be able to tell members that we are gaining real momentum in delivering the project.


“Today, we have 330,000 premises surveyed, which is 60 per cent of the entire intervention area, and detailed designs for 313,000 premises complete.”

He said that these “vital precursors” to the main build are “ahead of profile”.

“Currently, there are 182,000 premises where build works have either commenced or have been completed, which we see as a leading indicator of progress and project momentum,” he said.

“At the end of June, tomorrow, the number of premises passed will be 63,652, and there will be over 74,000 premises where the network is fully built.

“Since our last engagement with the committee, NBI has progressed our fibre build activity on six islands off Mayo and Donegal. We will further advance island connectivity and build off Cork later this year.”

The committee heard that since January, an extra 300 workers have been hired, bringing the total skilled workers on the National Broadband Plan programme to more than 1,500.

Mr Malone said the project is in “a different place” than it had been earlier in the year.

He said: “In the original stages when Covid came, it impacted us massively, on the surveying in the early stages and the design, and then consequently on the build.

“And as you can imagine, we’re a new company, we were setting up, so it pretty much affected every part of our business and everybody within the business.”

He said that since all the required systems are now in place, the impact of Covid “at the moment is not as big”, and the only impact it would have now would be “on the road on the actual build itself”.

Mr Malone added: “We’re probably about a month ahead of where we had predicted. So we’ve caught up. We’re passing and building between 7,000 and 10,000 premises a month at the moment.

“We’re probably a month ahead at the moment, providing we don’t hit any other obstacles.”

When asked whether the 102,000 premises would be completed by the end of 2022, Mr Malone said: “From what we’re seeing at the moment, we would be confident.

“All that said, there could be obstacles that could hit us, but we would have confidence in it at the moment.”

When asked again if it could come in ahead of the January 2023 target, Mr Malone said: “That’s exactly where we’re trying to be.

“We do believe we will bring it in a bit ahead of target this year. And we’re all very much aware, in particular for our own workforce as well, the need to get some wins.”

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