Northern Ireland will have most advanced fibre network in Europe

22 Feb 2011

A pioneering stg£2.5bn investment by BT in Northern Ireland’s fibre infrastructure will result in the region having one of the most advanced broadband networks in Europe by next year, and streets ahead of the under-invested broadband network in the Republic.

Northern Ireland enterprise minister Arlene Foster and BT have unveiled a plan that will see more than 780 new street cabinets deployed.

This will bring the number of street cabinets in Northern Ireland to which fibre will be connected to more than 2,400.

It will mean the percentage of phone lines connected to a fibre-enabled cabinet will jump by 88pc.

Upon completion in March 2012, Northern Ireland will enjoy one of the densest and fastest broadband networks in the world and will have more fibre deployed by that point than France, Germany and Belgium.

Nine out of 10 homes in Northern Ireland will enjoy typical speeds of 40Mbps uplink and 10Mbps downlink.

BT said the investment will lead to the creation of at least 60 new jobs.

“This is a very significant investment that once again positions Northern Ireland as a broadband leader and one of the best connected areas in Europe,” Northern Ireland Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said.

“Telecoms is undoubtedly one of Northern Ireland’s crown jewels and it is a key element of the executive’s plans to build a modern, efficient, infrastructure. Advanced telecoms will play an important part in the Northern Ireland Executive’s goal to develop a knowledge-based economy,” she said.

Broadband blunders in the Republic

Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, there has still been no progress to speak of in deploying fibre infrastructure. A study by TIF last year in collaboration with Mason Analysys found it would cost at least €2.5bn to deploy this infrastructure.

The report almost a year ago urged Ireland to act quickly or risk being left behind other countries in terms of next-generation access.

While the outgoing Government either did not understand the economic imperative of next-generation broadband or simply didn’t view it as a vote winner, both Fine Gael and Labour have each cited infrastructure investment plans to create an island-wide fibre network.

Labour proposes creating a next-generation fibre provider called NetCo which will begin the long-delayed rollout of a fibre network.

Fine Gael says it will invest €2bn out of its €7bn NewERA infrastructure strategy, as well as merge State-owned telecom assets into a Broadband 21 network.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years