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With the internet of the future on the horizon, and fibre internet becoming an increasingly important part of the telecoms mix in Ireland, the telcos will have to adapt their business models and the technology they use.
It is a situation which Telstra and Oireachtas Communications Minister Lucinda Creighton will be hoping to avoid.
Speaking at the Telecoms Industry Conference in Dublin on Thursday, Creighton said that Ireland would need to become a “digital village” by 2025.
“We have the technology in our hands, we have the infrastructure and we have to develop the technology so we can deliver the next generation of broadband and I think we have got to be a digital village,” she said.
Creighton also said that if the country were to opt for fibre instead of fibre to the node (FTTN) technology, it would be an “opportunity to see a lot of innovation, a lot more of the technologies that are coming through the gate are being used by other nations, so there is a lot to learn”.
But the minister’s comments come after the Irish Government announced on Monday that it was launching an inquiry into the viability of fibre-to-the-node (FTN) technology in Ireland.
While some of the companies that would benefit from FTN in Ireland have already been identified by the Government, the new initiative has not been formally launched, and it has not yet been approved by the Minister for Communications.
The inquiry, to be led by former telecommunications regulator Michael Lowry, is looking at whether FTN technology would work well in Ireland as a new “Internet of Things” and what it might take to bring the technology into widespread use.
In her speech, Creight said that FTN would be the “next frontier” for Ireland and that she hoped the inquiry would be able to give “the best answers to these issues”.
But she said the Government did not intend to take the issue “for granted”, and it was “very much in the interest of our industry to have a full inquiry”.
She said that there was “a great deal of uncertainty” surrounding FTN technologies, and that the “very best answer” would come from the industry itself, not from the Government.
“There are all kinds of opportunities to make sure that FTNs are able to provide the service we need and that we are able in future to deliver broadband services,” she added.
“The Government has made it clear that they have made it very clear that we will not be pursuing a policy of not proceeding with FTN.”
Asked if the Government could rely on the companies it had selected to provide FTN services in Ireland to provide its services, Creedy said that the Government “can rely on them to provide their services”.
“If we are to deliver on our vision of a digital Irish village, then we need to have the right infrastructure and the right technology to do it,” she explained.
“So I think the Government is working very closely with the industry to find the right solution for them.”
The inquiry will be led under the chairmanship of former telecoms regulator Michael Powell, who was appointed to the position by the outgoing Fine Gael government in June.
The Government’s inquiry into FTN is expected to be published on the internet in the coming weeks.