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Vodafone is teaming up with the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) to deploy fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) broadband services in Ireland.

The companies will invest a combined €450 million (£262.6 million) in the next-generation rollout, allowing households and businesses to access speeds of between 200Mb and 1Gb.

Fibre will be deployed using ESB’s existing overhead and underground infrastructure, meaning Ireland will become the first country in Europe to launch such a service nationwide.

Initially, around 500,000 homes and businesses across 50 towns will be able to take advantage of the FTTB network.

Should the joint venture receive approval from the European Commission, the first customers will have access to full-fibre broadband from the start of 2015.

The initial phase of the project is expected to be complete by the end of 2018, with scope for further expansion should both parties agree.

ESB and Vodafone will build and manage the network, but open access will be offered to all broadband providers on a wholesale basis.

This means they will be able to market and sell their own fibre broadband deals using the infrastructure.

Pat Rabbitte, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said the Irish government is committed to delivering high-speed broadband services to rural Ireland, with fibre as a core element.

"Complementing government investment in rural areas, will be commercial investment in more densely populated areas, offering competitive high speed services over multiple technology platforms," he stated.

Mr Rabbitte described the ESB and Vodafone plan as being "an exciting step" in ensuring regional towns can enjoy similar levels of connectivity to the main cities.

Vodafone Ireland's Chief Executive Anne O’Leary claimed the company has the best mobile network in the country.

"Now this joint venture will bring the best broadband service to Ireland," she claimed.

"With the number of devices per household anticipated to almost double over the next four years and more bandwidth-hungry services being developed, this new broadband service will enable a whole range of new services to be offered to Irish customers in the future."

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