Category: Northern Ireland

Reference Library – Northern Ireland

Need for broadband speed drove plan to connect west 0

Need for broadband speed drove plan to connect west

Need for broadband speed drove plan to connect west Originally from Mullingar and from an IT background, Paul Cunnane moved from Dublin to Mayo for a change of pace in 2001 -but found that access to broadband was severely lacking. Rather than simply complaining about it, he decided to set up his own broadband company, and so in 2005 Westnet was born. The company was set up with the aim of establishing affordable, high-quality broadband to rural communities in the west of Ireland. Email 1 Originally from Mullingar and from an IT background, Paul Cunnane moved from Dublin to Mayo for a change of pace in 2001 -but found that access to broadband was severely lacking. Rather than simply complaining about it, he decided to set up his own broadband company, and so in 2005 Westnet was born. The company was set up with the aim of establishing affordable, high-quality broadband to rural communities in the west of Ireland.

Since setting up the business, Westnet has established more than 100 local access points and a high-capacity fibre-optic and licensed wireless backbone which runs the length and breadth of Mayo. “Our customers are all in the west of Ireland, as far south as Clonbur, Co Galway and as far north as west Sligo. We reach as far west as Achill Island and as far east as parts of Roscommon,” says Cunnane. “Having a good broadband service is essential in this day and age. Our Castlebar data centre is linked into Ireland’s fibre network and beyond.

From the Westnet hub we have used fibre and wireless technology to create a comprehensive network linking much of the region. “We have a customer support phone line and SMS service operating seven days a week backed up by our team of engineers. Our sales team can check a customer’s location using sophisticated network-mapping software to see if a customer’s location has fibre service available or is within our wireless coverage.” Westnet has installed network access points in many of the rural areas of Co Mayo, helping local businesses develop and thrive in areas where the existing communications network had previously let them down. “Additionally, homeowners and students in Mayo can now sit in the comfort of their own homes to gain easy access to the internet for leisure, business and education purposes,” says Cunnane, who has worked in the IT business since 1987, starting as a junior computer programmer in a Mullingar factory. He then held various IT roles in software, hardware and networks and became the international information systems manager for The Learning Company, a publisher of educational software and games, which was bought by toymaker Mattel.

Disillusioned with the dotcom bubble, he moved to Mayo for a change of pace in 2001 as he had family roots there. He spent a few years as a personal development coach, but never lost his interest in all things IT. “I was constantly frustrated with the inability to get fast or even reliable broadband. I think anyone living in rural Ireland can identify with that struggle,” he says.

Homeowners and students living in outlying areas were depending on town centre internet cafés, or on unreliable mobile dongles, for broadband internet access, he adds “My struggle to get any sort of internet access in rural Mayo led to me to set up a wireless broadband co-operative – the Knockmore Network – which led in turn to setting up Westnet.” Cunnane assembled a team of skilled professionals, creating a blend of IT, networking and radio communications expertises to deliver reliable solutions to areas that are not considered cost-effective by other suppliers. “We’ve been getting faster and faster all the time. Late last year, we signed a deal with Siro, the ESB-Vodafone joint venture company, which will allow us to provide one-gigabit broadband to the people of Westport and Castlebar,” says Cullane. “This means that the people in these areas can access broadband as fast as international hubs like Hong Kong or Singapore. “As a regional broadband provider, it is fantastic to be able to avail of Siro’s open access network as we can compete with any telco offering services in these towns.” Being able to offer both wired and wireless services gives Westnet flexibility in the products that it can offer to its customers. It can offer direct fibre to the home where those services are becoming available, high-speed broadband through the phone lines in most of the region’s towns, and wireless broadband almost everywhere else.

Westnet was one of the first regional internet service providers (ISPs) to recognise the importance of supporting high-speed fibre services to homes. When the National Broadband Plan was announced in 2012, Westnet publicly embraced the idea of rolling out fibre services to every premises in the country, and it has signed agreements to provide services on commercial fibre networks in the meantime. “When we started out, we had to build our own network from scratch,” says Cunnane. “There was precious little fibre in Mayo, and what was there wasn’t available to operators like us at the time, so we built our own radio network to cover the county and now that Siro is in Mayo, we have access to the best broadband in the country. “We’ve kept that radio network updated to the latest available technology, and in recent years we’ve been able to access fibre backbone networks, which complement and add resilience to the radio backbone.” Westnet employs 13 people, and Cunnane believes it is important to have like-minded staff. He says that to provide the best service he needs to have staff who know what they are talking about and are at the top of their game. “Having staff with complementary strengths and abilities who can bring something different to the table is invaluable to me.” Cunnane also emphasises the importance of co-operation among the wider business community – he himself recently completed a stint as chairman of the ISP Association of Ireland, and Westnet co-founder Brendan Minish has been a member of the board of INEX, the Irish neutral internet exchange, for several years.

Cunnane’s story is an excellent example of how a personal struggle identified a gap in the market and how it is possible to harness existing skills and experiences to solve a problem for a large range of customers, demonstrating that a high technology product doesn’t need to begin life in a large business hub. Sean Gallagher is on holidays Sunday Indo Business Aine O’Connor Ted Carberry was a 42-year-old saddler in Mountmellick, Co Laois, sole supporter of his wife and 11 children when he had a brain aneurysm. He lost his memory and the use of his right-hand side,…

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References ^ Email (

Ofcom sets out Openreach delivery measures 0

Ofcom sets out Openreach delivery measures

By Colin Mann July 13, 2017 UK comms regulator Ofcom has announced how infrastructure unit Openreach will be held to account, as it becomes legally separate from BT, to ensure it delivers for phone and broadband users. Ofcom expects the reformed Openreach to engage with industry to deliver widespread fibre networks, offering fast, reliable broadband. The new company should provide a good service to meet the needs of all the people and businesses who rely on its network, together with a step change in quality of service.

BT agreed in March 2017 to Ofcom’s requirements for the biggest-ever reform of Openreach, its network division. The changes mean Openreach becoming a distinct company with its own staff, management and strategy, and a legal purpose to serve all its customers equally. Ofcom will closely monitor BT’s compliance with its new commitments, and how effectively Openreach serves the whole industry.

Ofcom will measure how far Openreach is improving its network and helping to deliver better quality of service. Should it become clear the new Openreach was not working, or BT was failing to comply with its commitments, Ofcom would revisit the model and consider new measures to address any concerns. Progress so far Since March, BT and Openreach have taken positive steps towards implementing the new commitments, which Ofcom welcome.

Openreach has a new Chairman and Board, with the majority of members having no affiliation with BT Group. Openreach has set up its own compliance committee, and is consulting publicly on a new process for engaging with telecoms companies on planned services and investments. How Ofcom will measure results Ofcom will examine whether all UK consumers and businesses using Openreach’s network are receiving decent speeds, and the right service to meet their needs.

Ofcom will measure, and report on, Openreach’s contribution to growing fibre broadband networks, including ‘full-fibre’ lines which are currently available to only around 2 per cent of UK premises. Ofcom expects Openreach to be responsive to different models of investment proposed by its customers, including co-investment and risk sharing. Ofcom also wants to see a step change in telecoms quality of service.

Accordingly, it will report on Openreach’s repair and installation times, and whether engineers are turning up on time. How Ofcom will monitor compliance Ofcom is establishing a dedicated Openreach Monitoring Unit, to monitor whether the new arrangements are implemented successfully. The unit will assess whether new governance rules are being observed, and whether Openreach is acting more independently of BT, making its own decisions, and treating all its customers equally.

It will consider whether BT and Openreach are living by both the letter and the spirit of the commitments, and creating a successful culture that values Openreach’s independence. Ofcom will publish its findings six months after the commitments come into effect, and then every year. This will include BT’s delivery on commitments in Northern Ireland, where Openreach does not operate.

A new protocol will govern the relationship between Northern Ireland Networks and BT Group, to ensure people and businesses in Northern Ireland benefit from the new arrangements in the same way as the rest of the UK. Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “The new Openreach will be built to serve all its customers equally, acting independently and taking investment decisions on behalf of all its customers.” “BT has made positive progress towards implementing the reforms. Once they are complete, Ofcom will keep a careful eye on whether Openreach is working for telecoms users, ensuring BT and Openreach live by the letter and spirit of their commitments.

If we see problems emerging, we won’t hesitate to act.” Next steps Completing reform of Openreach is dependent on the Government amending the Crown Guarantee, which underwrites the BT Pension Scheme, so that it maintains pensions protection for members of the scheme who transfer to the new Openreach. The Digital Economy Act introduced a power to enable this change, and the Government is drafting secondary legislation to implement it. After that, BT’s pension trustees would need formally to agree that Openreach will become a participating employer in the pension scheme.

BT must also complete a consultation process for the transfer of employees to the new Openreach.

Once these are achieved and the new commitments come into effect, Ofcom has confirmed that it will release BT from its past ‘undertakings’.

Micheál Martin slams delivery of broadband plan as ‘shambolic’ 0

Micheál Martin slams delivery of broadband plan as ‘shambolic’

Speaking in the Dáil he accused the government of missing “deadline, after deadline after deadline” and criticised the failure to provide a date for when the procurement process will be completed. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar 1 , meanwhile, defended the government’s record on broadband emphasising the detailed discussions ongoing around what he said is a “enormous contract” and adding: “We want to make sure we get it right”. He said 50pc of households and business have broadband and this will rise to more than 75pc by the end of 2018.

The goal is for 90pc to 100pc of premises to be covered by 2020/2021. Mr Varadkar also referenced the 300,000 homes where broadband will be provided by Eir. Mr Martin said the government should stop trying to claim credit for what a private company is doing.

He said the commitment in the programme for government to aware the contract by June 2017 “has gone by the wayside”. He claimed that the needs of rural households and businesses are being “denied and dismissed by this shambolic approach on delivering a national plan”. He said it’s now looking like it will be 2019 or 2020 before the commencement of the plan.

Mr Martin raised concern over the impact of the ultimate broadband contract of deal that sees Eir providing broadband to 300,000. And he also asked if the further 540,000 premises are “going to be waiting until infinity before anything happens?” Mr Varadkar said Eir is a private company and they’ve identified 300,000 premises where they believe they can provide high-speed broadband on a commercial basis at no cost to the taxpayer. He said that’s “very welcome”.

Mr Varadkar said providing high speed broadband to the further 540,000 premises will require government intervention and he said “we’re determined to do that as quickly as we possibly can”.

But he added: “we do have to follow proper procedures and proper procurement rules.” He said: “It’s an enormous contract and I would hope there’ll be a number of bidders for it and that it will be awarded as soon as possible.” He said: “Any delays will be minimised and we’re absolutely committed to ensuring that every premises in Ireland has access to high speed broadband.” References ^ Leo Varadkar (