Plans have been announced to provide high speed broadband connections to 115,000 homes and businesses around the country over the next two years.

A commercial venture between enet and SSE will see the provision of an open access fibre network in and around a number of towns outside major urban centres.

Under the first phase of the plan, 18,000 premises in Ballinasloe, Roscommon town, Manorhamilton, Donegal, Ballybofey, Stranorlar and Buncrana will have access to the network next year.

The consortium behind the project says the second phase will bring connections to a further 97,000 homes and businesses.

The plan is based on an extension of existing Municipal Area Networks (MANs), which are operated in over 90 towns across Ireland by enet.

Fibre connections will extend from town centres and out to suburbs and hinterlands, giving customers connection speeds of 1,000 mbps.

The open access nature of the development will mean other broadband providers will be able to offer services on the completed network.

Today's initiative is separate from the National Broadband Plan, for which the procurement process is ongoing.

That aims to provide State subsidised high speed connections to every premises in the country by the time of completion.

Bids by interested companies must be lodged by 26 September and it is thought the contract will be awarded early in 2018.