Vodafone Ireland ResearchNovember 14, 2016

INADEQUATE INTERNET SPEED RISKS THE SURVIVAL OF RURAL-BASED BUSINESSES, ACCORDING TO VODAFONE RESEARCH

• New Community Hub Initiative to Offer Business Hubs in 17 Towns across Ireland with 1GB Broadband for Two Years Free of Charge

Research carried out by Vodafone Ireland shows that nearly half (44.5%) of rurally-based small businesses believe their existing internet speed is not sufficient for their business requirements.

The research1, which highlights the challenges facing rural small business, was published by Vodafone at their panel discussion on ‘Creating Ireland’s Gigabit Society’ at National Digital Week 2016 in Skibbereen, Cork.

When asked about their plans for growth, nearly two-thirds (62%) of the businesses agreed that faster broadband and mobile phone coverage would enable them to expand their business. However, nearly seven in 10 (69%) said that slow and unreliable speeds prevent them from working efficiently and hold back their potential for growth.

In fact, over one in three (37%) said that they would have to relocate to a nearby town or city if internet connectivity was not available.

To further illustrate the importance of high speed broadband connectivity to businesses, Vodafone undertook additional research amongst a number of SoHo2 firms based at the Ludgate Digital Hub in Skibbereen. Ludgate is Ireland’s first rural digital hub providing 1 gigabit internet connection from SIRO, the joint venture between Vodafone and the ESB.

When asked about company performance since moving to the Hub, all respondents said that their business had been enhanced significantly as a result of having access to high speed broadband. In fact half said that it has resulted in an increase in online sales of around 30%, with all businesses reporting that high speed broadband has made them much more optimistic for the future growth of their business. As a further sign of this optimism, the majority said that they intend to employ more people on a full or part-time basis in the next 12 months as a result of super-fast broadband.

In recognition of a need to invest in and empower local communities through connected technologies, Vodafone has announced that it, in partnership with SIRO, will offer support to businesses and learning hubs around the country. This will be undertaken through a new initiative to provide 1GB broadband connectivity free of charge for the next two years. The initiative could potentially support over 150 businesses. SIRO is the open-access broadband provider delivering Ireland’s first 100% fibre-optic broadband network to 50 towns nationwide

The initiative will be open to digital hubs, enterprise and innovation centres and Institutes of Technology on the SIRO footprint in its first 17 regional towns. Further details about this initiative will be made available in early 2017.

Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland said;

“Insufficient broadband access is one of the critical issues facing Irish businesses and consumers today, particularly for those in rural locations. High speed broadband internet connectivity will mean that businesses can base themselves in any location and compete on a level playing field with some of the biggest organisations in the world.

“We are particularly proud to have been part of the success of the Ludgate Hub and are committed to supporting other community projects around the country through our ‘1GB Connected Community Hub’ Initiative with SIRO. These hubs are centres of innovation nationwide and a driving force for local economic recovery. They play a vital role in the communities in which they are operating and in recognition of their role we will offer two year’s free gigabit connectivity to hubs located in the first 17 SIRO rollout towns

“Vodafone is committed to delivering a gigabit society in Ireland and to playing a central role in driving that agenda – with the explicit goal of access for everyone to 1 gigabit broadband speed. Equality of connectivity will change how everyone in Ireland lives works and plays .It is now time to invest and empower our local communities through connected technologies. “

Sean Atkinson, SIRO CEO, added:

“Gigabit connectivity is already having a transformative effect on communities across Ireland as demonstrated by the success of the Ludgate Hub. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Irish economy, but traditionally SMEs in regional and rural areas are not competing on a level playing field as they do not have access to high quality broadband. We aim to transform this by putting each of our roll out towns on a par for high speed connectivity with leading international hubs, such as Tokyo and Hong Kong.

“As the largest Fibre-to-the-Building operator in Ireland with 36,500 premises passed to date, we are aware of the crucial role that strategic sites like business hubs play within their community as they foster innovation and collaboration. By delivering gigabit connectivity to each of these centres, we hope to supercharge the potential of all businesses operating within them. As a result, they will have access to the latest online services and will not be constrained in terms of poor broadband speeds slowing them down.”

By the end of 2016, services powered by SIRO will be live or construction work will be underway in 17 towns across the country by the end of the year – Dundalk, Cavan, Carrigaline, Sligo, Letterkenny, Tralee, Wexford, Drogheda, Westport, Portlaoise, Castlebar, Mullingar, Newbridge, Ennis, Ratheniska, Carlow and Skibbereen.

1 The Vodafone research, which was carried out by Amarach, focused on 100 rurally based Small office/Home office
2 SoHo companies are classified as micro or small businesses employed between one and 10 staff.
National Digital Week also saw SIRO reveal that that it has now fully completed its rollout in Skibbereen with the town on course to full gigabit connectivity. As SIRO’s retail partner in Skibbereen, Vodafone is now open for business and from next week we will begin to take orders for gigabit connections and services.