LONDON, July 2 (Reuters) - Vodafone is to build a fibre broadband network across Ireland, using the overhead and underground infrastructure of the country's Electricity Supply Board to connect 500,000 premises in 50 towns.
The British group, the world's second largest mobile operator, said it would invest 450 million euros ($612 million) to build a network that will offer speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, helping to improve connection speeds in rural Ireland.
Vodafone said subject to approval of the European Commission, it would form a 50:50 joint venture with the ESB to begin rolling out the network in the coming months, with the first customers able to use the service from the beginning of 2015.
The initial phase of the project is expected to be fully rolled-out by the end of 2018.
Anne O'Leary, the chief executive of Vodafone Ireland, said the deal would make Ireland the first European country to roll-out nationwide fibre-to-the-building broadband on electricity infrastructure.
Vodafone said it would open the network to other operators, meaning they could also offer superfast broadband speeds on a wholesale basis. ($1 = 0.7331 Euros) (Reporting by Kate Holton, Editing by Paul Sandle)