Published on 

Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce Publishes Final Report Outlining Measures to Accelerate Rollout of Telecoms Infrastructure

Minister Denis Naughten and Minister Heather Humphreys today published the final Report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce and brought this Report before Cabinet. The Report contains 40 actions aimed at accelerating the delivery of telecoms infrastructure, ahead of the rollout of the National Broadband Plan which will bring high speed broadband to all premises throughout the country.

Minister Denis Naughten said: “I am critically aware of the frustrations being felt across Ireland in terms of poor connectivity. It is exactly because of this that a top social, economic and political priority for me as Communications Minister is delivering the new National Broadband Plan (NBP) in the shortest time possible. Today’s Report comes at a timely juncture. Commercial telecoms companies are continuing to invest aggressively in the build out of high speed broadband and mobile phone networks. The actions which Government has agreed will help accelerate this investment and ensure that it is spread more evenly across the country”.

Minister Heather Humphreys said: “The actions contained in the Taskforce report will play a very important role in assisting the rollout of mobile services and high speed broadband, which will bring immediate benefits to homes and businesses throughout Ireland. As Minister with responsibility for the revitalisation of rural Ireland, I welcome the findings of the Taskforce report and I intend to utilise every resource available to me to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays to the rollout of this important infrastructure to rural communities. The appointment of a broadband officer in every local authority will help to assist this process on the ground in every county nationwide.“

Key actions contained in the Taskforce report include:

The actions outlined in the report include measures to streamline and prioritise planning procedures for telecoms infrastructure, a licensing regime to allow people to boost their home signals using repeaters, the build out of new ducting along the M7 / M8, measures to help stakeholders make informed choices in relation to their network provider and handsets, and general network improvements.

· Minister Naughten’s Department will work with telecoms operators and ComReg to identify mobile blackspots and come up with measures to address these blackspots, including the possibility of dealing with this through the assignment of spectrum in the 700MHz band.

· To assist consumers to make informed choices on products and network services, ComReg will develop and publish a new network coverage map, and develop a testing regime to establish the performance of mobile phone handsets.

· In order to streamline the rollout process, Minister Humphreys is providing funding to all local authorities to assign an officer with responsibility for broadband; acting as a single point of contact for engagement with telecommunications operators building out infrastructure.

· The Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs will work with the local authorities to develop local digital strategies to maximise the potential of a state-of-the-art telecommunications network to the fullest.

· From Q1, 2017, all Local Authorities will apply waivers in respect of development contributions for telecoms infrastructure developments.

· The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government will bring forwardlegislation to allow current planning exemptions for 3G antenna to extend to 4G antenna and will review the Planning and Development Guidelines.

· Transport Infrastructure Ireland has commenced work on building 95km of duct along the M7 / M8 Motorway, which will complete the ducting on this important Cork-Dublin route. Transport Infrastructure Ireland has also committed to reviewing the cost of access for telecoms operators to its ducts.

· ComReg will introduce a licensing regime for repeaters in 2017. This will allow householders and businesses to install high quality signal repeaters on their buildings, to boost in-house signals.

· Other key actions in the report relate to the review and updating of the relevant statutory planning guidelines to ensure consistency by local authorities, and the introduction of an online system to streamline the planning application process.

An Implementation Group will be established to drive and monitor the implementation of the actions in the Taskforce report, with an annual forum convened to allow all stakeholders to discuss wider issues impacting on the rollout of telecoms infrastructure.

Key investments that are currently happening include:

· Mobile operators are completing upgrades of their 3G and 4G networks, following ComReg’s 2012 multi-band spectrum auction. At least one operator now has over 90% population coverage with 4G.

· ComReg expects to allocate spectrum in the 3.6GHz band in 2017. This will release an additional 86% of spectrum capacity into the market, allowing fixed wireless and mobile operators to deliver services.

· Budget 2017 includes €8m to free up the 700MHz spectrum band, which will be particularly important in rural areas. It is expected that the band will be cleared for use by the telecoms sector in 2020.

· Telecoms operators are continuing to invest in the rollout of high speed broadband across Ireland. 1.4m premises now have access to high speed broadband with further investment promised. The procurement process for the State Intervention is also well underway, and the three bidders in the process have indicated that they will propose a predominantly fibre-to-the-home network for rural Ireland, putting Ireland to the forefront of connectivity internationally.

About the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce
The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce (the ‘Taskforce’) was established in July 2016, arising from a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government, to deliver on the actions set out in the National Broadband Plan. Ministers Denis Naughten T.D. and Heather Humphreys T.D. co-chair the Taskforce.

The objective of the Taskforce is to consult and engage with telecoms industry representatives in order to establish barriers to infrastructure and service deployment. It aims to identify solutions which can be implemented in the short, medium and long term to alleviate telecommunications deficits, particularly in rural Ireland, prior to full build and rollout of the network planned under the National Broadband Plan State intervention. The work of the Taskforce will assist Local Authorities in preparing for the rollout of the National Broadband Plan network once contract(s) are in place.

The Report and Implementation Programme can be accessed at this link.

About the National Broadband Plan
The National Broadband Plan is a Government policy initiative which aims to deliver high speed broadband to every citizen and business in Ireland. The National Broadband Plan’s ambition is to achieve 100% coverage across Ireland within 3 – 5 years of commencement of large scale rollout. This will be achieved through a combination of accelerated commercial investment by telecoms operators, and State intervention to deliver access to high speed broadband to those parts of the country where there is no certainty that the commercial sector will invest.

An updated Intervention Strategy report, developed following intensive engagement with industry and wider stakeholders, was published in December 2015. It sets out a series of policy objectives in respect of the proposed State intervention. Specifically it outlines what services are required under the National Broadband Plan and how they will be delivered by the successful bidder(s).

Further information on the National Broadband Plan is available at: