Ireland's b'band plan gets EC approval


BRUSSELS -- The European Commission has cleared Ireland's National Broadband Scheme, a plan that aims to lay down high-speed Internet networks across the entire country. Expected to cost at least 80 million euros ($119 million), the initiative will deliver broadband to towns and villages that might otherwise have been too costly for private operators.

Four candidates have already pre-qualified for the procurement process: BT Communications Ireland Consortium, Eircom, Hutchison 3G Ireland and an IFA/Motorola consortium.

The winner, to be chosen next June, will need a minimum download speed of 1Mb/s, upload speed of no less than 128Kb/s, and a minimum download capacity per connection of 10Gb per month.

A recent report from the European Competitive Telecoms Assn. shows that the rate of broadband growth in Ireland is running at 105% per year, making Ireland the second-fastest-growing broadband market in the EU.