Chair, Committee Members,
Thank you for the invitation to meet with you again and the opportunity to provide a progress update on the work of National Broadband Ireland in rolling out the National Broadband Plan.
I am Peter Hendrick, Chief Executive Officer of NBI, and I am joined here today by TJ Malone, Chief Executive of NBI Deployment.
Since we last met this Committee in January, significant progress has been made and I am glad to be able to tell members that we are gaining real momentum in delivering the Project. As Committee members know, we have agreed revised targets with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications and we are committed to delivering 102,000 premises passed by the end of January 2023.
Today we have 330,000 premises surveyed (which is 60% of the entire Intervention Area) and detailed designs for 313,000 premises complete. These activities, which are vital precursors to the main build, are continuing at pace, and are now ahead of profile. On average we are building between 7,000 and 10,000 premises each month with stability and predictability across the programme.
Currently, there are 182,000 premises where build works have either commenced or been completed, which we see as the leading indicator of progress and project momentum. At the end of June, i.e. tomorrow, the number of Premises Passed will be: 63,652 and there will be over 74,000 premises where the network is fully built.
Nationally there are 636 Broadband Connection Points, including 359 Primary Schools, installed.
With regard to the most remote areas in Ireland, since our last engagement with the Committee, NBI has progressed our fibre build activity on six islands off Mayo and Donegal. We will further advance island-connectivity and build off Cork later this year.
Since January, we have added 300 additional workers to the project, a 25% increase, bringing total employment on the NBP to c.1,500 skilled workers. Importantly, 98% of this additional resource has been recruited to support build works. This includes the addition of a new build partner earlier this month, as Gaeltec Utilities Limited from Kilkenny joined us, bringing a wealth of experience in rural construction.
With the addition of a further build partner, we anticipate build being underway for over 40% of the entire Intervention Area by the end of the year.
With regard to demand for services on the NBI network, we have already connected 14,200 premises (or over 22% of the premises which have been passed) and, while still early days in the deployment, in deployment areas where the service has been available for more than 6 months, take-up rates have reached over 30%.
This initial indicator of demand for the network is surpassing anything we have ever seen in Ireland when compared to other commercial rollouts, and indeed in comparison to other international projects. We now have some 56 Retail Service Providers partnered with NBI to sell gigabit fibre products and services on the network. NBI’s commitment to excellence in customer service and our best-in-class network allow service providers to integrate with our systems at unprecedented speeds. This is absolutely key to NBI’s success as an open access, wholesale provider.
The NBP is addressing a digital divide between rural and urban regions. Recent research from EY, commissioned by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, shows an increase in high-speed broadband services will underpin significant economic, individual and societal benefits. Key enterprise sectors such as agriculture and hospitality will see new economic opportunities opened for them, while assisting Government in achieving balanced regional development.
As part of our regular stakeholder engagement, NBI also commissioned research recently, which revealed:
- Seven in ten regional dwellers believe high speed broadband could lead to higher-paid work
- More than half would consider seeking new employment as a result of having access to high-speed broadband.
- Over 80% believed the National Broadband Plan would have a positive impact, improving their quality of life, helping the local economy, and helping local people start their own businesses.
Chair, I hope that the progress I have outlined today will give Committee members confidence that the roll-out is gaining ground. Of course, we will continue to provide regular updates to the Committee by way of the Quarterly Update process agreed at our session in January.
Delivering the National Broadband Plan is a source of great pride for our team at NBI and indeed our extensive number of contractors involved in the project. Not only is it ahead of its time at an EU level, it is paramount to the success of Ireland Inc.
TJ and I are now happy to take any questions you have.