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BT Helped by £24.5m Northern Ireland Broadband Improvement Project

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 (11:37 am) - Score 1,569

The Northern Ireland Executive (NIE) has announced a £24.5m project, which is part funded by BT and the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme, to make faster Internet speeds available to over 45,000 of the regions most remote rural homes and business premises by December 2015.

Until now Northern Ireland hasn’t really had to worry much about achieving the national UK superfast broadband coverage target of 95% by 2017 because, according to Ofcom at least, 96% already have access to a Next Generation Access (NGA) network (e.g. BT, Virgin Media etc.).

But this coverage figure drops to 91% in rural areas and they often consist of sparse communities, which are very expensive to serve. As a result the new scheme aims to fill many of those gaps, with £9.9m coming from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), £5m from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), £4.4m from BDUK and then £4.2m from BT.

Arlene Foster, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, said:

I have consistently lobbied for additional investment from both government and telecoms providers to ensure higher speed broadband services are delivered as widely as possible. As we work to try and reach rural areas, the costs to improve services increase significantly so we need to ensure resources are used carefully.

Today’s announcement is great news for Northern Ireland. It is another significant step in making broadband services more widely available to our citizens irrespective of where they live or operate their business. I sought and I have gained an assurance from BT that these improvements will be completed by December 2015 so that consumers and businesses will benefit from the investment as quickly as possible.”

As usual BTOpenreach will now begin an “extensive survey and design process” in order to finalise their roll-out plan, which is expected to take several months to complete before they can begin “re-engineering the network, which was designed for telephone calls, and changing it into a fibre rich, open access network“.

We expect the usual mix of up to 80Mbps capable FTTC lines and some 330Mbps FTTP to be used in the deployment. However some people might rightly question why so much money is being injected into Northern Ireland when there are other parts of the UK that will struggle to get even close to the national 95% target.

Credits to Thinkbroadband for spotting this news, which seems to have been widely overlooked.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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5 Responses
  1. Avatar Gerarda says:

    Northern Ireland must have a remarkable telephone network with no long ecxhange lines as according to the original consutation document “Services of at least 512 kilobits per second have been available to any customer in Northern Ireland from December 2005 when all of Northern Ireland’s telephone exchanges were updated under a contract between DETI and BT.”

  2. Avatar Michael says:

    It seems that BT are now attempting to own the description “Open Access” to mean what they mean rather than the original definition which clearly differentiates Wholesale behaviour as NOT being Open Access.
    In fact BT have fought Open Access as it would have meant real cost based duct and dark fibre for any traffic – leased lines and mass market NGA.

    I also thought that the economics of Fibre to the Cab, then wireless to the prem was more likely to play out in these highly dispersed rural deployments. Their Big Build videos still talk about this as a last mile deployment option.

  3. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

    Looks like Northern Ireland has gotten lucky I hope some of the other remaining 5% get a similar sort of deal.

  4. Avatar Mark says:

    The network in Northern Ireland is amongst the most rural in the UK. Long lines are the issue, and while Ofcom may talk about 96% of premises having “access to” an NGA enabled network, nothing like 96% can get fast speeds.

    It is testament to previous investments by the local NI Government that NI is only consuming relatively modest sums of BDUK funding. The last project saw local Govt invest circa £20m which was more than matched by BT. Think about that for a second.

    So lets watch and see what “re-engineering the network” means to the end users, one would imagine it’s about true Next Gen speeds to more people, as opposed to stop-gap wireless that always gets overtaken by fixed line (copper or fibre) solutions in the long run anyway.

  5. Avatar raymond says:

    I think it is disgusting that the people in rural areas have been paying line rental to BT for 30 plus years and have had very little in return. Why should the Tax payer fund the replacement of lines when it is clearly the duty of the network owner to reinvest what it has taken form it’s customers over the years. BT should be forced to spend its own profits to do this work. You may say well it dosent pay to supply to rural areas, but its swings and roundabouts, they can service the urban dwellers easily and make huge profits in doing so, some of these excess profits should be reinvested into the rural areas. BT should pay a levy towards the bills of rural dwellers supplied by wireless and sattilite providers as this seams to be the best solution for these areas.

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