Belfast residents trial 20Mbps broadband

16 Jan 2008

A new housing scheme in Belfast has been kitted out with 20Mbps broadband as part of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment’s (DETI) high-speed broadband trial.

The experiences of the residents will help shape Northern Ireland’s future broadband strategy, Economy Minister Nigel Dodds MP, MLA said.

Some 180 Housing Association residents on the Ormeau Road development have access to the next-generation network.

Two broadband providers, Virgin Media and Bytel Networks, laid down two separate broadband infrastructures, fibre to the kerb and fibre to the home, to allow comparisons between the two.

Virgin Media installed optical fibre around the development to a series of street cabinets capable of supplying telecommunication services including 20Mbps broadband to all the homes within the development. The connection from the cabinet to the home is by copper cable.

The Bytel Networks trial is limited to 10 houses and involves optical fibre cable right into the house. The optical cable terminates under the stairs where a small unit has been installed to convert the optical signal to digital. The connection from under the stairs to, for example, the living room, is by conventional copper communications cable. The system was designed, for the purpose of this trial, to deliver 20Mbps.

The trial specifically looked at the cost, technical and practical issues involved in installing infrastructure capable of delivering next-generation broadband of 20Mbps or greater.

“The information and knowledge gained from this trial will help shape our future strategy for broadband services in Northern Ireland,” commented Dodds. “Working with the Department for Social Development and Clanmil Housing on this trial, we now know high-speed broadband can be delivered through fibre optics at a reasonable cost into new housing developments.

“Without the active co-operation of all parties, developer, design team, builders and the two telecoms companies, this trial would not have been possible. This has been a very useful learning exercise for all involved and my department will be sharing the information gained with our counterparts throughout the UK, including the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly Government telecommunications teams, as well as the communications regulator OFCOM.”

Owen Maguire, network development manager for Bytel, remarked: “This trial clearly demonstrates that Northern Ireland’s telecommunications infrastructure is among the best in Europe.”

He also added that there is fantastic potential available to homes and residential developments throughout Northern Ireland.

By Niall Byrne