- Microsoft Airband provides high speed broadband solutions in areas with connectivity challenges
- Trial locations building on success of pilot programmes in Cavan and Carlow
The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, T.D. today (Tuesday 7th June) committed to additional pilot sites to roll out high speed internet access, working with the Microsoft Airband Initiative.
Microsoft's Airband Initiative aims to close the digital divide and bring high-speed internet connectivity to rural communities around the world.
The Airband initiative uses various technologies to provide connectivity, including Television White Space (TVWS) technology, which utilises the unused broadcasting frequencies between television channels and provides a quick-to-deploy solution to enable broadband connectivity.
The Government has partnered with Microsoft to trial this technology in Ireland.
After pilot programmes in Cavan and Carlow, the project will now be trialled in rural communities in Donegal, Waterford, and Tipperary, which are experiencing particularly challenging or persistent connectivity issues.
Specific locations for these trials will be confirmed once feasibility studies have been completed.
The Carlow pilot resulted in the provision of free high-speed broadband to the homes of second-level students attending Delivering Equality of Opportunity schools (DEIS) for the duration of their senior cycle.
This has enabled students to download school work making studying easier. Carlow County Libraries have provided educational supports to the children and their parents. The participants have reported that they use the newly installed connection every day.
The pilot in Cavan, established an internet connection for Ballyhaise Agricultural College and a number of surrounding homes and businesses, proving the technology can work in difficult terrain such as the Drumlins in Cavan.
These pilot programmes are helping to meet a key objective of Our Rural Future, the Government’s rural development policy, which focuses on optimising the opportunities from high-speed broadband for rural communities and businesses.
This is one of a number of projects that seek to explore the ways technology can be used to improve connectivity in rural towns and villages and sits alongside other programmes such as the Digital Innovation Programme, Broadband Connection Points and Shared Infrastructure initiatives.
Minister Humphreys said:
“I am delighted to work with Microsoft Ireland, Local Authorities, Carlow County Development Partnership, to provide households in Carlow with a free internet connection for the next two years, which they can utilise for education, remote working, and entertainment.
“Last year I published Our Rural Future, an ambitious policy for rural Ireland which identifies the enormous economic and social benefits that increased connectivity can have for rural communities.
“Exploring the use of innovative technology such as TV White Space is just one way we can increase connectivity using new and developing technologies.”
Minister Humphreys concluded:
“These pilot programmes offer an opportunity to help households for whom internet services are currently unavailable or inadequate.
“The efforts over the past two years have demonstrated the potential to deliver creative solutions in remote, rural areas and shows what can be achieved when Government, local authorities, communities and industry work together in a collaborative and proactive manner.
The results from testing carried out so far have shown strong connections and faster speeds than initially expected.”
The short-listed premises in the next phase of the initiative will be provided with a broadband service and will, in turn, report back on performance, reliability and average speeds achieved.
This information will be added to the findings from the ‘urban’ trial (Carlow) and the ‘undulating topography’ trial (Cavan) to provide more information on how Airband performs in different environments.
James O’Connor, vice president, Microsoft International Operations and the Microsoft Ireland Site Leader commented:
“The Government’s development of a new National Digital Strategy provides a unique window of opportunity for Ireland to accelerate digital transformation and help us to realise that mission.
“However, key to achieving this is about ensuring that every citizen and community is digitally connected so they have the opportunity to fully engage in our digital economy and society.
“The successful pilots in Carlow and Cavan provided great learnings that will now inform the delivery of the next phase of these efforts.
“We’re committed to continuing the Airband Initiative’s collaboration with Government, LGMA and Local Government to deliver fast and reliable broadband access to an increasing number of rural homes and businesses across Ireland.”