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UPDATE N.Ireland Secures Another GBP17m to Extend Superfast Broadband

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 (9:00 am) - Score 2,000

The on-going Northern Ireland Broadband Improvement Project (NIBIP), which only began one year ago, appears to have been boosted by another £17 million investment in order to help bring BT’s faster “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) connectivity to an additional 38,000 premises.

The first phase of the NIBIP only began last February 2014 with an investment of £23.5m and an aim to push the faster broadband service out to an additional 45,000 premises by December 2015. At the last count some 17,500 homes and businesses had already been put within reach of the service (here is a list of the upgraded street cabinets).

In other words, the project is still on target and BT recently confirmed that a total of 200,000 premises in Northern Ireland can now receive its ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) connectivity (with some FTTP); this includes the operators own pure commercial upgrades.

The vast majority of Northern Ireland is thus already well served with Next Generation Access (NGA) style infrastructure and Ofcom’s 2014 Infrastructure Report put the coverage figure at 94%, although this fell to 77% for those able to receive superfast broadband (24Mbps+) speeds (here). So even after December 2015 there will still be areas that need an upgrade and this is where today’s investment comes in.

Colm O’Neill, CEO of BT Northern Ireland, said:

The Superfast Rollout Programme marks another successful step in Northern Ireland’s broadband journey, helping to strengthen its position as one of the best regions in Europe for fibre speeds and availability.”

Ed Vaizey, UK Digital Economy Minister, said:

Today’s announcement is fantastic news for Northern Ireland – this additional funding will see tens of thousands more homes and businesses able to access superfast speeds and will provide a tremendous boost to Northern Ireland’s economy.”

Apparently the new investment will see the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS / BDUK) contribute £7 million towards the extension project, which will be matched by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI). On top of that BT has agreed to commit £3 million of its own money.

Unfortunately the details that have been released so far do not offer a clear timescale for the extension work or give any indication of what the total coverage for “superfast broadband” speeds will be once completed. We are attempting to find out more.

UPDATE 10:26am

BT has clarified that the extra investment won’t strictly be an additional 38,000 premises, instead it will aim to provide “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) speeds to homes and businesses that may already have existing standard broadband capable connections.

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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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6 Responses
  1. Avatar TheManStan says:

    So this is a boost investment?
    Vectoring roll-out for NI?

  2. Avatar Col says:

    I live on the edge of a large town in NI and I must say that I have not seen any new cabinet upgrades both inside and out of town for the last couple of years. I also find it hard to get information from BT Ireland in relation to cabinet upgrades especially when even more investment is now available.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      Mark included a link to the cabinet upgrades since Feb 2014 (there are ~ 150 cabinets).

      That page then includes a link to the nidirect page that has details on the rest of the plan, including the postcode sectors of future areas.

  3. Avatar gerarda says:

    Is this the same Northern Ireland that had 97% superfast availability in 2012 according to Ofcom? http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/telecoms-research/bbspeeds2011/infrastructure-report.pdf Has someone been stealing the cabinets?

    1. Avatar MikeW says:


      Ofcom certainly weren’t very good at distinguishing between SFBB speeds and SFBB-capable networks in the 2011 and 2012 reports, were they?

      They started to differentiate in 2013 by describing them as NGA networks, and the SFBB adjective was left to describe speeds alone.

      In England, that distinction hadn’t been so important – at the time – because it included a relatively small percentage.

      NI, however, has a considerably higher fraction of rural, long-line (d-side) properties than England, and the very high percentage of NGA coverage didn’t translate to such a high percentage of SFBB speeds; they were the first area to hit this limitation significantly. Ofcom took their time to catch up with reality … and it shows that Mark is right to persue the various press offices in search of clarification of superfast coverage vs NGA coverage.

      NI’s recent involvement in BDUK allows them to focus on adding further NGA nodes deeper in the network, so as to extend NGA coverage to properties whose lines were too long to properly qualify as superfast in the first round.

      They are the first region to start to overcome the limitation, which we see with the new “all-in-one” cabinets. It’ll be interesting to see how this & other range-extending solutions pan out.

  4. Avatar Con Bradley says:

    The Republic is building a 100% fibre network. Shame we are being short changed by BT’s feeble broadband programme.

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