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Small Full Fibre Rollout Expansion for Project Stratum in N.Ireland

Thursday, April 15th, 2021 (8:03 am) - Score 624
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The Building Digital UK programme is reportedly preparing to approve a small funding boost for the Project Stratum deployment in Northern Ireland, which will see the chosen supplier (Fibrus) build their gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network to a couple of thousand extra premises.

Last year saw start-up provider Fibrus being chosen by the Northern Ireland Executive (DfE) to deliver their Project Stratum programme (here), which will see a total of £350m (public [£165m] and private funding) being invested to extend “full fibre” broadband to more than 76,000 premises across some of the hardest to reach rural areas in Northern Ireland by the end of 2025.

The first customers on this new network officially went live last month in Coalisland (County Tyrone) and, according to Irish News, the operator has so far expanded their coverage to reach 1,482 premises (they’re still in the very early ramping-up phase of build). After that their next goal is to achieve 19,000 premises by the end of 2021 (it’s unclear if they mean calendar 2021 or financial 2021).

However, Fibrus is reportedly also keen to harness additional funding from the new £5bn Project Gigabit programme in order to expand their Project Stratum rollout. But there are limits to how much this could be stretched without running a new procurement, although the indications are that BDUK will approve funding for an additional 2,517 premises (possibly to help complete some areas of partial coverage at the network edge).

On top of that Fibrus, which has previously committed to help ensure that 100% of homes across NI can access full fibre services by the end of 2025 (here), are also gearing up to announce an expansion of their separate, albeit complementary, commercial rollout.

Nigel Robbins, DfE Project Director, said:

“We hope by the summer to draw conclusions with DCMS to secure additional funding. The £165m was never a budget, it was a significant sum of money to address a problem, so further funding is required to complete that task and to address the particularly hard to reach premises. It remains our aspiration not to leave any eligible premises behind.”

At the same time there’s no escaping the timing of all this, which follows the announcement of a major commercial build expansion by rival operator Openreach (BT), which just committed to deploy FTTP to a further 100,000 premises (here). As we’ve said before, NI is currently on course to be the first major UK region to achieve almost universal coverage of full fibre broadband.

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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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