Source: Total Telecom
By Harry Baldock

Total Telecom spoke to Nokia’s CEO of UK & Ireland, Phil Siveter, and Peter Hendrick, CEO of National Broadband Ireland to discuss their work together on the National Broadband Plan, set to bring transformative connectivity throughout the country.

As communications technology continues to evolve at such a blistering pace, too often rural areas are left underserved by commercial operators due to the cost of deployment, leaving them trapped by the digital divide and unable to enjoy the same prospects as their urban neighbours. Ireland’s National Broadband Plan (NBP), however, is looking to buck this trend. Last week saw the first premises in Ireland receive fibre connectivity as part of the NBP, a project that is aiming to connect over 1.1 million people across around 544,000 homes, business, farms and schools. 

Speaking to Total Telecom, National Broadband Ireland’s CEO Peter Hendrick said that connectivity was becoming a crucial utility, akin to transport infrastructure. 

“If we look at the National Broadband Plan, what it really offers for rural areas is a future, in terms of both choice and opportunity,” said Hendrick. “It’s going to be critical for the future of Ireland. The NBP is that underlying infrastructure – it’s no different from the road and rail networks that were built many years before.” 

He noted that this was especially true for rural and sub-urban businesses, where connectivity can present a major roadblock to business development.

“Once you have connectivity, there are really no boundaries to how you can market, sell, and deliver services and products. That’s been one of the biggest challenges for rural businesses – whether you’re a start-up or an established business, trying to service customers outside of your own geography can be difficult,” he said.

“Connectivity isn’t just about fibre – it’s about the delivery of products and services, whether that’s over the internet or transporting packages around the world. With the globalisation of the last 40 years, we’ve centralised everything into hubs, but Covid-19 has shown us that location doesn’t matter any more so long as connectivity is there.”

Indeed, the global pandemic has been a major catalyst for a change of mindset towards connectivity, both on the part of governments as well as businesses and homeowners. With so many of us relying on connectivity to facilitate working from home and the education of our children, a low-quality internet connection is simply no longer acceptable.

“If we haven’t realised the importance of national connectivity over the last year, we never will,” added Phil Siveter, Nokia’s CEO of UK & Ireland. “It is so critical to how we live our lives, both from a personal basis, for businesses, for government and for society as a whole.”

Siveter explained that fibre is so much more than just faster speeds; it is the gatekeeper for a whole raft of transformative technologies. Take 5G, for instance, which will rely heavily on fibre and will offer not only new consumer experiences but an entirely new perspective for the future of industry.

“5G is underpinned as a fibre technology because we need to get low latency, high bandwidth into the ground as soon as possible,” he explained. “So, when we think about 5G, we can think about not only transforming the consumer experience through phones, download speeds, augmented/virtual reality, etc, but also in terms of how it will transform our enterprises. We can move to factories of the future – robots controlled using an integrated 5G and fibre solution. You might have hundreds or even thousands of robots controlling that manufacturing plant, delivering not just a safer environment but also massive improvements to productivity.”

But the digital transformation of society through enhanced connectivity will not be instantaneous, but rather a process, taking place gradually over many years. As such, the NBP is not only about unlocking high quality connectivity immediately for rural communities, but also about laying the foundations for high quality connectivity and the technologies that come with it for years to come.

“The future-proofing focus of this infrastructure is critical and, from an NBI perspective, we are making sure that we are deploying infrastructure today that will support all the requirements for ubiquitous connectivity over 25 years and beyond,” said Hendrick. “The one thing we know is that we don’t know how much is going to be needed in the future, but no doubt innovation is going to push those boundaries and we have have to meet those demands.”

“We can’t underplay the game changing nature of this fibre deployment that’s happening in Ireland right now,” concluded Siveter.

The complete interview with Peter Hendrick and Phil Siveter is available to view for free from the link above. Want to hear more from the experts about connectivity in Ireland? Register for free for this year’s virtual Connected Ireland conference