National Broadband Ireland

Designing and delivering a high speed broadband network for 1.1 million people in rural Ireland


National Broadband Ireland (NBI) is tasked with delivering one of the most ambitious deployments of broadband infrastructure in the world. Within just seven years, it has to design and build a state-of-the-art, full-fibre network for the 1.1 million people in rural Ireland who currently have little or no Internet access. The network will connect 537,596 rural properties, including over 54,000 farms and 679 schools, across every region and island in the country.

Undertaking a project on this scale without accurate, reliable geospatial data would be nigh on impossible. NBI needs to be able to understand not only where the properties are that need to be connected, but also where there is existing infrastructure (like poles) that can be reused and where new assets need to be located. It needs to know where land is privately owned, where surveys are taking place, where fibre-to-the-premise has been installed so far and much more besides.


NBI primarily relies on Ordnance Survey Ireland’s (OSi’s) national spatial data framework, Prime2. Used by designers on desktops and engineers in the field, it provides everyone at NBI with access to the same authoritative mapping data. “The accuracy of the geospatial data from OSi is far superior to that of other maps,” says Brian O’Malley, GIS Manager at NBI. “Prime2 shows a lot more features, which helps us to plan the best locations for new poles and other infrastructure with precision.”

The Prime2 data feeds into the organisation’s geospatial information system (GIS), design solutions, project dashboards and data automation workflows. In addition to Prime2, NBI also uses some of OSi’s web-based services including MapGenie, as well as OSi open data on municipal district boundaries. According to GIS Specialist Glen Bambrick, “OSi’s free, open data is as important to us as the data we pay for.”


Underpinning almost all aspects of the national broadband project, OSi’s geospatial data delivers significant advantages for NBI including:

A more cost-efficient network design process
The comprehensive detail in the Prime2 data allows NBI’s infrastructure designers to create their initial network plans at the desktop. The accuracy of these plans means that engineers are less likely to need to make design changes when they visit sites, which saves time and improves the overall efficiency of the design phase. “The more accurate the design is before we get into the field, the more efficiencies we gain,” O’Malley says.

Improved project planning and site safety
Using Prime2 and OSi’s open source boundary data, NBI is able to more accurately identify which poles are within which municipal areas and submit planning requests to the correct local authority. It can also easily see which roads are public and recognise the road category, so that it can work with local authorities to put the most appropriate safety measures in place for employees working near busy highways.

Effective management of build costs
NBI routinely uses Prime2 data in data analysis to measure distances between the proposed route of the broadband infrastructure and properties that need to be connected. With this insight, the organisation can accurately ascertain how much cable it needs per section, calculate the value of assets on private property and better manage the total cost of the build phase.

Well-informed decision-making across the project
Whether employees are in the office, working from home or in the field, they can easily access the geospatial information they need to make decisions. They can, for example, easily identify what is private property and ensure poles are erected on public land wherever possible. Equally, engineers in the field can check OSi maps to make sure that new assets are installed in the correct locations. Summing up, Bambrick says, “OSi’s geospatial data is an integral part of the process of designing and building a national broadband network for Ireland.”

“OSi’s geospatial data is an integral part of the process of designing and building a national broadband network for Ireland.”

– Glen Bambrick, GIS Specialist, National Broadband Ireland