WAN demand and bandwidth limitations
10 September 2014 | 0
That the options open to companies located outside Ireland’s major metropolitan areas when it comes to broadband access are limited will come as news to virtually nobody.
As access speeds in built up areas soar to 100mbs and beyond, the reality across large swathes of the country is that getting any kind of broadband connection is a distant dream. And for people considering setting up new businesses, or relocating existing businesses to less built-up areas, the harsh reality is that right now whether you can count on a business-class broadband service is largely a matter of luck.
Could this be set to change however? Earlier this year, a new €500 million Government plan was announced to bring high speed broadband to more than 1,000 towns and villages across Ireland, while new joint ventures between the ESB and Vodafone aim to use the existing infrastructure of poles and pylons to carry high-speed broadband into 450,000 homes in areas where it is now unavailable.
At the same time, new wireless technologies are set to be launched this year that may also offer some hope to those not lucky enough to be located where it makes economic sense to run fibre cables. Until these schemes come on line though, the average Irish business is bang out of luck.
“We have people who cannot get anything from eircom at all,” said Ann-Marie Fleming, general manager of Nova Broadband in Cork.
“Often their line isn’t able to host broadband and when it can it’s extremely limited. On top of that, there are a lot of residential customers connecting through the National Broadband Scheme with Three where they have a dongle but they have to be standing on the chimney at the right time of day to get any kind of coverage.”
“Realistically for business users that’s not a solution, so their alternatives are wireless or satellite and even then satellite can have its own issues as well,” she said. “It tends to be more expensive and have smaller data allowances.”
Nova Broadband describes itself as a business—focussed ISP specialising in wireless internet access in the Cork area, but also serving south Limerick and east Tipperary. It says wireless is an ideal match for companies that cannot otherwise operate effectively online.
“We’re able to connect companies and give them quite a big data allowance. They get dedicated bandwidth to areas of rural Cork that have absolutely no alternatives. We go out, we install wireless receivers and we don’t hear from them again because it just works.”
Fleming says that it is not uncommon for companies based in Dublin that have opened a Cork office to be genuinely stunned to learn that they cannot get a decent internet connection locally.
“They cannot believe their ears that they can’t get a 100Mbs connection. They can be almost annoyed with you about it,” she said.
According to Nova Broadband, the minimum bandwidth it considers companies to need in order to be considered online varies by industry — a small office might operate fine on 5mbs to 10mbs whereas a photographer or media production company might not be viable without a significantly faster connection.
Rural not remote
For technology journalist and TechPro contributing editor Leslie Faughnan, having a reliable data connection is crucial to his job. Before he moved from Dublin to Enniscrone, Sligo in 2010, he fully investigated his options to make working from the location was viable. The 5mbs connection available from eircom, backed up by a 3G mobile connection from Three, seemed to just about be workable.
“And so it was, until last Christmas when the performance started to degrade massively,” he said. “The contention has gotten so bad that I can tell when school is out without looking at the clock because my speed lags as the neighbourhood Xboxes get switched on.”
“I go from getting 3.5mbs or maybe 4mbs on a good day down to 0.25mbs. I have reached the stage now where I make sure anything substantial gets sent early in the morning when the contention is better.”