Imagine closes in on $180m deal for broadband rollout

Telecoms firm using wireless technology to provide internet to rural areas

Telecoms business Imagine is closing in on a large financing deal to help build out its wireless broadband network.

The company has been talking to a number of parties and a North American infrastructure fund has emerged as a frontrunner in the process, the Sunday Independent understands. The fund is prepared to inject in the region of $160m-$180m (€129-€145m) into Imagine in a combined debt/equity package. Imagine would also be able to draw on its own financial firepower for the project.

That includes the proceeds derived from settling a legal dispute with Motorola over a previous broadband project.

Imagine – run by executive chairman Sean Bolger – has been working on a so-called Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband network. Bolger did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The LTE network connects areas to the internet via wireless technology – often placed on phone masts – rather than fixed-line copper cables and is seen as useful for remote areas. Speaking to the ‘Irish Independent’ in November, Bolger said the company had been offering a limited trial service that had attracted around 20,000 customers. He said the company had received expressions of interest from around 100,000 further potential subscribers. Delays in the Government’s National Broadband Plan are likely to benefit Imagine which says on its website that it wants to build LTE “where people need it most”.

The longer the National Broadband Plan takes to come to fruition, the greater the chance Imagine will have to steal a march on rivals. Bolger said in November that he aimed to have the full network established in 18-24 months. He said the initial deployment had been “extremely successful.” “We’re one of the first companies to do it and now it’s becoming mainstream.”

Imagine was one of the parties that successfully bought access to the upcoming 5G spectrum, expected to be launched in Ireland in 2021 at the earliest. 5G is a faster type of wireless internet.

In 2016 Imagine sold its retail business division to Magnet Networks, saying its focus was to “deliver fibre-based next-gen services to regional and rural communities across Ireland.”

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Credit Irish Independent

What is 4K TV?

Learn about 4K technology in this guide.

With rapidly falling prices and big names like Sky and Netflix on board, 4K Ultra HD TVs are fast becoming the norm.

The best TVs from the likes of Samsung, Sony and LG are all now 4K Ultra HD televisions. These are fast replacing HD models as the TV of choice in our living rooms. Sky and Netflix are geared up for 4K, and you can now buy a 4K TV for under £500.

Click Tech Talk for the full guide
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Hottest Tech Gadgets for 2018

Want to find out about the hottest tech gadgets for 2018?

2018 is here! To get your year started right, we’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of the most innovative, unique, and useful gadgets that we’ve found on the market today. There are gadgets that help save money, save time, or could even save your life – and others that are just plain cool!

We’ve purchased and tested each of these gadgets ourselves, to ensure they’re of the highest quality and not just some cheap knockoff.

Without any more waiting, here’s our top gadget picks for 2018. However, please be aware that most of these products are selling out everywhere. If you see some gadgets that you might want, you should order them now before they run out of stock!

Click here to see the hottest picks!

From Amazon Echo to Google Home, the best smart home devices for 2018

In recent months a push by Google, Amazon and other tech giants has propelled smart home devices into the mainstream.

Voice-automated lights, virtual assistants and everyday artificial intelligence; a little over a year ago this technology was in its infancy, but in recent months a push by Google, Amazon and other tech giants has propelled smart home devices into the mainstream.

While at the turn of 2017 we only had Amazon’s Echo smart speaker andGoogle’s Home, now both line ups have been bolstered by a range of new hardware, and in 2018 we can expect speakers from the likes of Apple and Samsung to vying for buyers attention.

What are smart home devices?

Smart home devices let you turn your home into an automated, voice-activated and app-controlled hub. Set your thermostat from your workplace, keep an eye on the pets with a remote camera, or set an alarm with your voice.

Some of the most popular smart home devices are the current generations of smart home hub. These include Amazon’s Echo speakers and Google’s Home speaker.

Click here to learn more about how to use Amazon Echo and Google home and how to set up your smart home.

Colm McCarthy: Telecom giant’s exit leaves taxpayers to count cost of rural broadband pledge

It could be time to think again about the privatised State telecoms network, writes Colm McCarthy

Communications minister Denis Naughten shrugged off last Thursday’s news that Eir, the former State-owned telecoms monopoly, had withdrawn from the procurement process for the Government’s rural broadband scheme. With just one bidder left, he claims the procurement process will be simplified and the process will go ahead smoothly. But the minister represents the taxpayers as well as those expecting early connections, and the taxpayers are on the hook for the costs of the scheme. Would you be pleased to arrive at the fair, with a horse that must be sold, to discover that just one buyer had bothered to attend?

The minister’s reluctance to acknowledge this predicament illustrates some familiar pitfalls for policymakers in utility-type industries. The main one is that the regulation of monopoly utilities is not simple. When Telecom Eireann was privatised back in 1999, the company owned the core national telecoms network. Almost 20 years later, and despite technological change and the arrival of new providers of wholesale network capacity, the successor company Eir remains the dominant provider of fixed-line communications infrastructure.

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High prices force firms to boycott Eir’s rural networkl

Companies such as Sky and Vodafone say Eir has set a price that is so high, rivals can’t afford to offer rival services to rural residents.

Ireland’s main broadband firms are boycotting Eir’s private rural fibre broadband network in what may be a further blow to rural internet development.

Companies such as Sky and Vodafone say Eir has set a price that is so high, rivals can’t afford to offer rival services to rural residents.

“The current access price of €270 is too expensive,” said JD Buckley, managing director of Sky Ireland, Ireland’s fourth largest broadband provider and the country’s fastest-growing internet service.

“We’re really hoping this will be dealt with by ComReg when it finally publishes its market review. But the level Eir is charging is way above others and isn’t realistic for us to offer services.”

Eir’s charge of €270 to rivals to connect to its rural fibre network sits in contrast to €70 for connection to Siro, a similar fibre network in regional towns.

Other major broadband networks echoed Mr Buckley’s views.

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Eir chief says broadband plan was ‘complex and onerous’

Eir’s Chief Executive has said the company withdrew from tendering process for the National Broadband Plan because the process became increasingly onerous

Eir’s Chief Executive has said the company withdrew from tendering process for the National Broadband Plan because the process became increasingly onerous and the business case did not stack up.

Richard Moat said Eir entered the process with the full intention of winning all, or as much of it as it could.

He said it will provide full support to the eventual winner because the company is fully supportive of the policy to provide high-speed broadband to everyone in Ireland.

Mr Moat said Eir was still rolling out to 300,000 homes as part of its Irish investment.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Moat said the Government’s aim is achievable and he regretted that Eir would not be part of that process.

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National Broadband Plan in crisis as Eir poised to quit process

Eir is poised to quit the National Broadband Plan, the state-subsidised rural broadband rollout that promises to connect 540,000 households and businesses.

The move will come as a huge blow to the government’s plans on getting high-speed internet to non-urban areas.

It leaves just one remaining company, Enet, in the bidding for the state contract.

This could mean a much more expensive deal for taxpayers or the abandonment of the process altogether.

A spokesman for Eir said that he had no comment on the issue, but that the company would clarify its position shortly.

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75,000 Cork homes & businesses suffering because of delays in rolling National Broadband Plan – McGrath

75,000 homes and businesses in Cork are without high-speed broadband

Cork South Central Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath has said the government needs to press ahead with the National Broadband Plan following confirmation that 75,000 homes and businesses in Cork are without high-speed broadband – and in many cases any broadband at all – because of the government delays.

Deputy McGrath was commenting after receiving a parliamentary reply from the Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten which shows that there are 270,000 premises (including residential and business premises) in Cork, including 75,000 who will completely rely on the State-led intervention for access to high-quality broadband internet.

Deputy McGrath commented, “I am receiving regular complaints from constituents about the lack of good quality broadband and in some cases any broadband at all. This often includes people who are actually living close to a town centre. They have been badly let down by the government.

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How the loss of net neutrality could change the internet

Supporters of the repeal say it will free up internet providers to innovate, while opponents fear the online world will become more like cable TV.

The repeal of net neutrality ushers in a new chapter of the internet that could eventually transform the way Americans communicate, shop and consume information online.

The Federal Communications Commission’s party-line vote Thursday to dump the Obama-era rules, which required internet service providers to treat all Web traffic equally, opens the door for companies like Verizon and AT&T to experiment with new business models free from government regulation.

ISPs point to an array of possible pro-consumer outcomes like “family friendly” broadband packages that block content not suitable for children, or guaranteed fast speeds for health-related mobile applications. But net neutrality advocates paint an array of troubling scenarios — from smaller websites like the crafts marketplace Etsy and streaming service Vimeo forced to pay tolls to reach consumers, to cable giants like Comcast blocking or slowing disfavored sites while giving priority to their own content.

Click here to learn more