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Northern Ireland UK Touts 10Mbps Minimum Broadband Speed by 2011

Posted: 04th Dec, 2009 By: MarkJ
northern irelandThe Northern Ireland Executive appears to have bested the UK government's Universal Service Commitment (USC) to bring a minimum broadband connection speed of 2Mbps to everybody in the country by 2012. Instead N.I has gone one step further and promised a minimum of 2Mbps for rural areas and 10Mbps for urban areas by May 2011.

BT is investing close to £30m in the project, with a further £18m coming from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI), under the European Regional Development Fund's (ERDF) European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) Rural Development Programme.

Under the project, BT will deploy Fibre-to-the-Cabinet ( FTTC ) technology to a majority of businesses with other fixed line solutions being used where appropriate. Businesses can thus expect maximum speeds of up to 40Mbps, with the lowest performance being more like 10 to 15Mbps downstream. Upstream speeds of 2 to 15Mbps are possible.

Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, said:

"Following a competitive tender exercise, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment has entered into a contract with BT for further development of Northern Ireland’s telecommunications infrastructure, specifically the provision of Next Generation Broadband Services.

“This is hugely significant. At a time of economic slowdown when private sector companies are scaling down their investments, this multi-million pound injection in our infrastructure has the potential to indirectly create up to 1,000 additional jobs per annum."

The contract with BT will deliver faster speeds through the accelerated deployment of fibre optic cable. There will be upgrades to equipment across 166 exchanges (plus 1,176 new access points) and the introduction of new technology to increase broadband speeds to businesses.

However, upon closer inspection, we note that the project is only designed to deliver on the key Programme for Government objective to ensure 85% of businesses in Northern Ireland will have access to next generation broadband speeds by 2011. That is not 100% and the remaining businesses are likely to get just 2Mbps.

The Minister explained:

"All of the technologies to be used will be fixed line with fibre being the predominant solution. There are few, if any, parts of the British Isles which will have anywhere near the amount of fibre that is going to be deployed in Northern Ireland, particularly in our rural areas.

Telecoms is one of the jewels in our crown and this investment in faster broadband, which builds upon our earlier investments and the provision of 100% access to first generation broadband, provides further opportunity for companies based here to improve their productivity."

The news is certainly very welcome because Northern Ireland is known to have some of the slowest broadband speeds in the UK and it is in desperate need of an upgrade, which this appears to deliver. Still, the Executive’s statement reads more like a network enhancement announcement than a specific pledge to deliver 2Mbps to every single rural area and 10Mbps for every single business in Northern Ireland.
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