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Press release from the Dept. of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation:
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O'Connor launches VODAFONE & SIRO National Gigabit Hub Initiative

27th March 2017

New initiative to offer business hubs in 15 towns across Ireland with 1 gigabit broadband connectivity for two years free of charge
National campaign has the potential to create thousands of jobs in selected towns

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD, today launched Vodafone and SIRO's national Gigabit Hub Initiative, which aims to spark a digital transformation in 15 towns across Ireland. A first of its kind, the companies will offer a 1 Gigabit broadband connection to qualifying business, technology and start up hubs free of charge for two years with the initiative having the potential to significantly strengthen and grow thousands of jobs across Ireland.

The Initiative is now open to hubs based in 15 towns - Dundalk, Cavan town, Carrigaline, Sligo, Letterkenny, Wexford town, Drogheda, Portlaoise, Castlebar, Mullingar, Newbridge, Ennis, Ratheniska, Tralee and Carlow town.

The possibilities and benefits of digital connectivity for these towns through this initiative are endless. Having access to high-speed broadband internet connectivity will mean that businesses can now be based in any location, retain local skills, knowledge and talent, compete on a level playing field with national and international organisations.

The application process is now open and will run until Friday 21st April. Hubs interested in applying for the 1 Gigabit broadband connection can find out more about the initiative and register their interest at www.vodafone.ie/connected-futures

This unique initiative has been designed to replicate the success of the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen, which is powered by 1 Gigabit internet connection thanks to SIRO, the joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone. Officially launched in August 2016 by Minister O'Connor, Ludgate is firmly on course to help create 500 jobs in the West Cork region over the next five years.

Highlighting the challenges facing rural business, Vodafone research undertaken in late 2016 with businesses based at Ludgate, found that nearly two-thirds (62%) said that faster broadband and mobile phone coverage would enable them to expand their business, with the majority saying 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. However, nearly seven in 10 (69%) said that slow and unreliable speeds prevent them from working efficiently and hold back their potential for growth, clearly illustrating the importance of high speed broadband connectivity to businesses.

Commenting at the launch, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Mary Mitchell O'Connor said: "High speed broadband is vital for regional development and the Government is delivering on its promise to address Ireland's connectivity challenges. Having opened the Ludgate Hub last year, I have seen the economic and social benefits that Gigabit connectivity has delivered to Skibbereen. Vodafone and SIRO's Gigabit Hub initiative will replicate this success in 15 locations across Ireland, helping to attract jobs, investment and startups to each town. Community enterprise centres like Ludgate will help regional towns compete on a global stage, whilst also revitalising rural areas by encouraging more people to return to where they grew up."

Anne O'Leary, chief executive of Vodafone Ireland, added: "When we helped to launch the Ludgate Hub last year, we wanted to establish a blueprint for other towns across the country to replicate Skibbereen's success, which if mirrored, has the potential to create and secure thousands of jobs in rural Ireland. Today we have realised that vision with the launch of our Gigabit Hub initiative, helping 15 towns to become part of the Gigabit society and becoming a beacon of innovation for the rest of the country. We now want to encourage communities in these other towns to follow Ludgate's lead and leverage Gigabit connectivity to boost the local economy."

Sean Atkinson, SIRO CEO, also said: "As Ireland's largest Fibre-to-the-Building provider, we are delighted to be helping to revitalise towns across Ireland. The Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen illustrates the digital transformation that our 100% fibre-optic broadband network can spark and our Gigabit Hubs initiative will open up a new world of possibilities for the 15 towns involved. Strong, consistent connectivity will not only help attract new businesses to regional Ireland, it will also help Ireland's young people create a future in the towns they call home instead of being forced to move abroad"

SIRO is a joint venture of ESB and Vodafone which is investing €450 million in building Ireland's first 100% fibre-to-the-building broadband network, offering a 1 Gigabit (1000 Mbps) internet connection to 500,000 premises in fifty regional towns. The broadband infrastructure is three times as powerful as the market leading service in Dublin and is powered by light, making it different and better than any other network in Ireland, with no copper connection at any point. SIRO recently announced that it was Ireland's largest Fibre-to-the-Building broadband provider, with over 64,000 premises passed.




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