National Broadband Plan Hits Another Speed Bump

Conal Henry’s departure from Enet raises more questions than answers at this critical juncture.

Conal Henry’s departure from Enet raises more questions than answers at this critical juncture. And the people need answers, writes John Kennedy.

The decision of Conal Henry to step down from Enet during what seemed to be the pinnacle of his success only serves to raise more questions than answers about the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

I heard about Henry’s departure from the helm of Enet as I was traveling back from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, in a race against the weather and to avoid being stranded away from home for a week.

As the plane descended on Dublin amidst a blizzard, my own mind was a-blizzard about what this could potentially mean.

It is yet another strange twist in the yet-to-begin NBP, which has up until this point sown more confusion than actually given people what they really want: connectivity.

A plan such as the NBP ought to be clear-cut and decisive. Instead, it has become a tangled web of intrigue, promises and frustration.

The departure of Eir from the NBP in recent weeks – just months after the Vodafone-ESB joint venture Siro left – from the process was not encouraging.

Either way, Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, was bullish at the time that the NBP would go ahead and that Enet-SSE, as the last consortium standing, would be awarded its contract in September 2018, with shovels due to hit the turf days later.

It signified a key moment of success for Henry after 12 years of stewarding the company, in terms of winning the contract to manage the 94 metropolitan area networks, and growing it from nothing into a network that includes dark fibre backhaul infrastructure transiting the rail and gas network, and three proprietary metro networks, including a 100km fibre ring in Dublin. Enet also operates one of the largest licensed wireless networks in the country.

Last week, however, Enet announced Henry’s departure.

Henry said: “After 12 years working with the wonderful team at Enet, the time has come for me to hand over the reins. I am so exceptionally proud to have been associated with this great company.”

David C McCourt, Enet’s chair, said: “Conal’s departure does not impact on Enet’s participation in the National Broadband Plan procurement process. Peter Hendrick, who is continuing as managing director for all growth initiatives for Enet, will also continue to lead the Enet team and as bid director of the Enet-SSE consortium.”

Another twist in the road to full connectivity?

After so many twists and turns in the road to 100pc broadband in Ireland – remember, shovels are not yet in the ground – you could be forgiven for suspecting that there’s more to this than meets the eye.

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