BT has announced a £20 million investment to accelerate the expansion of its ultrafast broadband network to towns across Northern Ireland, reaching a further 140,000 premises.
The roll-out, which is scheduled to be completed by March 2019, will predominantly involve the deployment of fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology, the operator said.
Under current programmes, 25 per cent of homes and businesses in Northern Ireland are scheduled to have access to ultrafast broadband, defined as speeds of 100Mb/s and above, by this time.
With the additional investment, the roll-out will reach nearly a quarter of all premises in Northern Ireland – 140,000 more than originally planned.
The country’s rural nature and long telephone lines means that many homes are unable to receive adequate broadband speeds. Out of all nations in the UK, Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of premises that are unable to receive 10Mbit/s – 92 per cent versus 95 per cent for the UK as a whole – according to the Connection Nations 2016 report from Ofcom.
BT Northern Ireland is the largest private sector investor in communications infrastructure in the country, providing wholesale services to all service providers on equal terms – just like Openreach does in Britain. (Openreach does not operate in Northern Ireland.)
The new investment complements existing programmes BT has invested in jointly with the Northern Ireland government under the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme. Due for completion by the end of the year, the £17 million Superfast Rollout Programme Phase 2 (SRP2) will lift speeds for 39,000 premises across the country.
“We’re delighted to be investing at this significant level, delivering against our local ambition to futureproof our Northern Ireland infrastructure and rank favourably amongst the best fibre networks in Europe,” said Mairead Meyer, managing director networks, BT Northern Ireland.
To help build the network, BT will recruit 42 additional apprentices and graduates, who’ll undertake a variety of roles in designing, planning and building BT’s Northern Ireland network.
The roll-out of this latest phase of network will begin immediately and run until March 2019. The areas to benefit will be announced on a rolling basis and published on www.nibroadband.com.