Delivering a full fibre broadband service to homes and businesses in rural Northern Ireland, which has previously been starved of a reliable broadband service, is a project that will have a profound and long-lasting impact on the entire region.
Digital connectivity is after all, the new utility service, as necessary as heat and light in these post-pandemic days, when balancing working from home with a return to the office is the new norm.
That is what Fibrus started doing last year, through their own investment in full fibre infrastructure, which will eventually reach 100 Northern Ireland towns. Full fibre has been recognised as the key to unlocking digital imbalance in Northern Ireland and demand for fibre networks is growing rapidly.
The award of the Project Stratum contract from the Department for the Economy in October 2020 has supercharged the rollout and already Fibrus has reached a major milestone as it surpassed the 60,000 premises mark this summer. The benefits to the individual user will be transformative, allowing them to access download speeds and a connectivity which they could previously not have imagined. Cumulatively the impact on Northern Ireland is equally significant and the project will leave the region as the most digitally connected across these islands.
Alongside the connectivity uplift, Fibrus fibre rollout is having a very direct and immediate economic impact. The total planned capital investment from Fibrus is over £350 million and the company, alongside its delivery partners, are currently installing 14km of new broadband infrastructure every single day and erecting 400 new telecoms poles each week.
At the beginning of 2020, Fibrus employed 20 people; that figure is now close to 200 direct employees and is growing every single week.
In the midst of taking on the Project Stratum contract, the rate at which Fibrus was growing meant that new premises were required and at the beginning of the summer a new headquarters was opened in the emerging Belfast business district at Lanyon Place. Fibrus is also active in the British market, is already building network in Penrith and over the next three years plans to deliver full fibre broadband to 300,000 homes and business in 118 regional towns across Cumbria, Northumberland, and North Yorkshire.
The challenge laid down by the Northern Ireland Executive was how to maximise the Government’s Project Stratum investment; Fibrus’ response was to target 76,000 premises alongside the investment they were already making.
Fibrus Chairman Conal Henry has hailed Fibrus investment in Northern Ireland as a game changer for the region: “We are already well on our way to delivering to over 40 per cent of the homes and businesses in Northern Ireland and alongside the other investment being made in the sector, we believe this will be the first region on these islands to have 100 per cent coverage of full fibre broadband. That would be an amazing achievement and would show real business leadership, which will benefit everyone.
“There are no longer any acceptable excuses for why areas should go without full fibre broadband, regardless of whether they are urban or rural communities, and we are determined to continue to play our part in forever removing the digital divide that exists in Northern Ireland. In growing the fibre network, we will be helping shift the economic position of the region at the same time. We’re happy with that position.”
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