An Introduction To The MANs
In the recent past, for a variety of economic and geographical reasons, the private sector had not delivered the desired levels of investment in telecommunications infrastructure in an appropriate timeframe.
While alternatives to eircom’s national, core fibre existed, there was no competing network available within towns to access these national fibre networks. This infrastructure deficit (between national and local) had been identified as a barrier to competition, so the State took the decision to deploy local fibre networks in 94 cities and towns in regional Ireland.
Therefore, a central objective of the MANs project was to provide a high quality network that would enable competition in the local area and ultimately facilitate enhanced broadband and communications solutions.
So what exactly are the MANs? In simple terms, the MANs are high capacity fibre optic cables typically laid in urban areas. Nenagh was among 66 towns in Phase 2 of the project. Other local MAN enabled towns are Clonmel (Phase 1), Cahir, Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel, Roscrea, Templemore and Tipperary Town (All Phase 2).
enet and The MANs
Crucially, the State also determined the operating model for the MANs. The infrastructure would be operated in a “wholesale” basis, meaning that MAN capacity would be sold to other telecoms companies for resale to end users. Additionally, the networks would operate on an open-access basis. This means that all telecoms companies can have access. This model is contrary to traditional operators’ exclusivity of network, and allows for competition in a way that had not previously happened.
Nationally the MAN programme has been acknowledged by most experts to have made a major contribution to the improvement of telecommunications in Ireland at a time when there wasn’t enough investment in new telecoms infrastructure.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI): The MAN supports the employment of thousand of FDI jobs across the nation. Indeed there is strong statistical evidence to show that the vast majority of IDA job creation occurs in MAN enabled towns. enet would be the first to acknowledge that the MANs don’t create jobs on their own, they do however, remove a key barrier to those who would wish to invest in regional Ireland.
The IDA themselves are unequivocal in their view that the MANs have provided their client customers with much greater choice, service and better prices when it comes to broadband as well as general telephony connectivity, and that they have contributed significantly to the competitiveness of regional Ireland.
Increased Competition: The MANs were never conceived as channels to deliver ubiquitous broadband directly to end users. The MANs are a classic “middle-mile” infrastructure, providing a very high-quality link between Ireland’s national telecoms network and the range of last-mile or access technologies such as mobile broadband, WiMax, wireless or cable. This is borne out by the reality of the situation, with enet having over 50 telecoms companies buying MAN capacity and reselling it to end users – both commercial and residential.
Reduced Costs: In tandem with this increased competition, costs are becoming increasingly keen and are greatly reduced from a few years ago with the MANs proving to be a vital impetus in driving competition and lowering costs across the range of access technologies.
The Nenagh MAN
Contrary to recent reports, the Nenagh MAN is live (“lit up”) and already trafficking with 2 different telecoms companies taking 3 different connections on the network. The first of these connections was delivered in 2011. Already, the Nenagh MAN has broken the single supplier dependency and provided real choice and real competition in the local marketplace.
In regional development policy it is critical that we ‘front load’ infrastructure in areas designated for future development. The MAN in Nenagh clearly has a role in these circumstances.
As to potential usage over time, our experience is that local population and economic activity will ultimately drive uptake of MAN services. For example, take Mullingar, a town with broadly similar population. The Mullingar MAN was handed over to enet in 2005, essentially 5 years before the Nenagh MAN, and has 10 telecoms companies taking 34 connections. It is this type of outcome that Nenagh could expect to see, over time.
To The Future
In a relatively short period of time, the MANs are delivering and are helping to drive down the cost of broadband, as well as introducing new product offerings into regional Ireland.
The advent of bandwidth demanding applications such as IPTV (the delivery of broadcast programmes over the Internet), VoIP (the use of the internet to carry telephone conversations) and other services, like video conferencing, video-on-demand and the exchange of ever larger files, continue to support the case for high-speed connectivity.
With the virtually unlimited capacity of fibre, it is universally recognised as the only true future proofed delivery mechanism allowing homes and businesses to take advantage of bandwidth intensive services now and for years to come. In fact the MANs, by design, are technically specified to very high standards with the aim of being future-proofed to meet the expected growth in demand, so all MAN towns, Nenagh included, are best placed to take advantage of the evolving technological landscape.