Forfas, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland all agree that, for Ireland to be globally competitive again, we need a world class communications infrastructure. Whilst there is debate as to exactly how this is best achieved, there is a broad consensus that fibre optic networks are the way to go and that the more people that have access to fibre the better.
The good news is that the State has already invested in constructing a world-class fibre optic infrastructure around 27 cities and towns around Ireland – known as the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).
e|net operates the MANs on behalf of the State and does so in an “open access” fashion, which means all telecoms companies wishing to provide services to consumers or businesses over the fibre network can. This has meant increased competition among the telcos in regional Ireland, resulting in greater service innovation and reduced prices.
However, since in many instances, the MAN to building physical connections were not included in the original capital funding, businesses still need to gain connectivity to the infrastructure to avail of the services offered by the telcos. However, this connection can, in some situations, be costly and often acts as a barrier to subscription.
In order to address this issue, the relevant Local Authorities and e|net are working together to reduce the costs of direct connections. There are a number of areas in which the Local Authorities can work together with e|net to ensure that connections to the MANs are maximised and that the full potential of the asset is realised.
• Road Opening Licenses / Charges
• Planning Conditions
• Network Extensions
• Existing Council Ducts
• Use of Alternative Technologies
• MAN Network Mapping
Road Opening Licenses / Charges
Road opening charges and associated bonds can constitute a significant part of the cost of a customer connection. e|net has developed a solution which will give the Council the reassurance that quality work can be carried out in a timely manner and in a spirit of cooperation. Some Councils have led the way in putting standard and user friendly wayleave processes in place that results in minimal financial burden to the end customers and also allows for professional implementation of the broadband services.
Many Local Authorities are now including a condition in planning permissions granted in MAN towns that requires developers of both commercial and residential properties to install carrier neutral / open access ducting for fibre optic based services which include Broadband, Telephone, Television, CCTV and many other services. This ducting can then be connected to the existing MAN. Not only does this ensure that all occupiers have access to all current services available, but it future proofs all premises for potential technology developments rapidly coming down the line.
In order to ensure that the existing MANs are extended to reach new developments and zoned areas, it is important that Councils consider adopting a policy of installing MAN ducting on all new roads projects, road realignments, resurfacing work as well as new footpath works. Again, this is currently happening with some councils.
Existing Council Ducts
Many Local Authorities have existing spare / unused ducting in roads and footpaths which could be used to bring the MAN network closer to the customer premises – and indeed in some cases directly into customer premises. e|net is interested in exploring this issue further. Another possible synergy could be that when the Council is carrying out ducting project for their other utilities – water, sewage, drainage etc – that they would consider installing MAN ducting at the same time.
e|net are actively seeking alternative technologies that would allow them to delivery the physical connection to the customer at costs significantly lower than the current standard trenching method. Included in the areas being explored are deploying fibre through the existing sewer networks as well as a method of installation using slit trenching, currently being used in many countries in Europe, the US and Canada.
MAN Network Mapping
As the MANs are extending and more customers are being connected to the network, e|net are updating the existing MAN network drawings, using DGPS equipment to ensure the accuracy of the information and send regular updates to the IS section of the relevant Local Authorities. This information can be made available to both council staff and external contractors for plant protection purposes – this will assist in avoiding unnecessary damage to the MAN network during any excavation works.