MegaProject 1214: Future of Irish National Broadplan Plan PPP uncertain
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The chief executive of Enet, the sole remaining bidder in the tender process for the Irish National Broadplan Plan PPP, has announced his resignation, despite the Irish government planning to award the contract in the next few months. This comes days after the managing director of BT Ireland, one of the largest telecommunications companies operating in Ireland, stated publicly that he was not Enet was capable of delivering the project.
The project involves the design, financing, construction, operation, maintenance and commercial exploitation of a high speed broadband network (defined as a minimum speed of 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload) and associated services to areas where there is no existing or planned commercial network - the State Intervention Area. This area covers 540,000 postal addresses, 52,057 farms, 47,096 SMEs, primarily micro, 437 schools and 310 business parks - 21% of national population.
The resignation of Enet chief executive Conal Henry comes as a surprise. Following Henry tweeting the news on Monday, the company has not commented on whether this will affect the development of the project.
Enet's status as sole bidder is a result of the withdrawal of both of its shortlisted competitors. In September 2017, the joint venture of Vodafone Ireland and the Electricity Supply Board withdrew from the tender process, stating that it had been unable to develop a competitive business case to justify continued participation in the bid process.
On 31 January 2018, Ireland's Minister of Communications announced that another bidder had informed the department of its withdrawal. Eir is the largest telecommunications operator in the country, and it was thought by many to be easily capable of developing the project, thus its departure was another huge surprise.
Managing director of BT Ireland, Shay Walsh, alluded to this earlier this week, commenting that Eir was the "natural company" to develop the project. He claimed Enet would have to traverse Eir’s network to reach the homes selected for the plan's intervention area. This has a "deficit of investment". Walsh believes taxpayer money will inadvertently be used to repair Eir’s network.
These developments put the future of the project into uncertainty.