Magnet Does The Business

Press release
12th Apr 2006

The chief executive of Magnet’s new business division Donal Hanrahan has defended the Government’s metropolitan area network (MAN) strategy, saying many telcos would not be able to serve Ireland’s regions without it. He added Magnet is in the process of rolling out SDSL service and is considering plans to enter the Irish mobile market.

“We wouldn’t be in the regions if it wasn’t for the MANs. In fact there are a lot of telecom companies that wouldn’t be operating regionally if it wasn’t for access to a fibre facility.” According to Donal Hanrahan.

Magnet Business, which was launched last week, came about following the acquisition of Netsource recently for an undisclosed sum. Hanrahan, who previously headed up Bord Gáis’ Aurora network division, told that combined the Leap Networks, Netsource and Magnet divisions have between them 5,000 business customers across Ireland receiving connectivity via fibre, ADSL and wireless.

Magnet in Ireland is part of entrepreneur Ken Peterson’s Columbia Ventures, which globally has assets of some US$500m in Europe, the US and Australia, including a 100pc share in the Dublin-based Hibernia Atlantic fibre company, which operates a 12,200-km fibre optic transatlantic cable system stretching from Europe to the US. Peterson acquired the network, originally built at a cost of €900m, from 360 Networks after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US for a mere €18m.

In Ireland, Peterson’s Columbia Ventures has invested some €65m in Magnet Networks since it acquired its predecessor Leap last year. “A lot of that €65m investment is already in place,” explains Hanrahan. “All the pieces are in place. We are investing in unbundling the local loop as well as reaching regional customers as well as cities like Galway, Cork and Limerick. We can connect via fibre to Hibernia’s POP (point of presence) in the UK and straight onto Hudson St in New York.”

Asked about Magnet Business’s plans to become a fully-fledged telecoms company, Hanrahan explained: “We are already a telco in the sense that we provide connectivity via fibre, copper or wireless, ranging from 2MB ADSL to a 2.5GB trans-Atlantic fibre link.

“We will provide voice services. Providing connectivity is a stepping stone in this direction. Voice is a natural step. Between Leap, Netsource and Magnet we have some 5,000 business customers around the country. The new Magnet Business service will focus exclusively on the business market and we will be backed up by a network of 150 resellers nationwide.”

Hanrahan said that among Magnet’s core business offerings to the Irish business community will be SDSL (Symmetrical Digital Subscriber Line), a technology that allows more data to be sent over existing copper telephone lines. SDSL supports data rates up to 3Mbps. “The advantage of SDSL for businesses is that it is uncontended, so there is less latency than standard ADSL services. We will also be aiming to provide services to businesses such as hosted PBX services,” he said.

Hanrahan dismissed criticism of e|net, the Limerick firm designated the managed services entity responsible for the first wave of 27 towns in the Irish Government’s €170m national broadband strategy. “We wouldn’t be in the regions if it wasn’t for the MANs. In fact there are a lot of telecom companies that wouldn’t be operating regionally if it wasn’t for access to a fibre facility.”

Hanrahan added that Magnet Business is also considering opportunities in the mobile space. “Ultimately the whole gamut of communications is going in the direction of wireless and mobile. We would like to see the MVNO market open up in Ireland.”

In conclusion he said that as well as serving Ireland’s predominantly SME base, Magnet Business will be focusing on opportunities amongst multinational companies investing in Ireland as well as pitching for a share of the Government VPN, which is due to come to tender soon.

By John Kennedy, Silicon Republic