Project Stratum: ‘The infrastructure project of a generation’

Fibrus has been busy making a difference to the lives of people across Northern Ireland, as almost 50,000 householders can confirm.

That is because Project Stratum has enabled the Belfast company to bring these rural customers out of digital darkness by giving them access to hyperfast broadband.

Fortunately, many more homes will benefit from what has been hailed as “the infrastructure project of a generation”, as Fibrus continues to roll out the transformative initiative at a time when broadband is considered as essential as electricity or water.

The incredibly encouraging  news comes as the reliable full fibre broadband provider recently hit the halfway point in its delivery of Project Stratum.

Indeed, by the end of September 2022, nearly 47,000 premises (46,711 to be exact) can be connected to a fully fibred broadband service, thanks to Fibrus.

That impressive figure is from a total overall target of 84,651 premises due to be connected under the auspices of Project Stratum.

And, although the goal for the end of September was 43,158, Fibrus over-delivered on its objectives, linking an impressive 3,553 more premises than initially forecast. 

Jenny Lennon, Construction Director at Fibrus, explains that Project Stratum was the most important infrastructure project of this generation: “It is revolutionary for Northern Ireland, particularly for the communities and businesses who, to date, have had no meaningful broadband connection.

“This is an extremely challenging rural network build that began in the middle of a global pandemic.

“We commenced the build on the day we signed the contract, something that is generally unheard of, and both our work ethic and commitment to our customers has remained focused throughout.

“Broadband in rural areas was constantly missed because, without government intervention, it was not commercially viable, but here we are now, with close to 50,000 homes afforded hyperfast services thanks to future-proof fibre technology.”

“Planting those first poles in Coalisland on 19 November 2020, was a sign of our intent to connect people to high quality broadband as quickly as possible.

“We connected our first customer just three months later which is an absolute testament to the dedication of not only our own teams, but also our suppliers.

“We continue to remain focused on our delivery, we consistently evolve to meet the demands of our rollout and ensure we continue ahead of schedule.

“We recognise that full fibre broadband is key to unlocking the full potential of Northern Ireland and the ensuring every home and business is on a level playing field. The benefits full fibre brings to the Northern Ireland community are life-changing.

“Broadband in rural areas was constantly missed because, without government intervention, it was not commercially viable, but here we are now, with close to 50,000 homes afforded hyperfast services thanks to future-proof fibre technology.”

Lennon adds: “In addition to Project Stratum, we are rolling out our own commercial network across smaller urban towns and villages, targeting a total build of 350,000 and we plan to expand on this.”

Project Stratum is financed by the UK Government, the Department for Economy (DfE), the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and Fibrus, the full fibre broadband provider responsible for its delivery under the brand Hyperfast NI.

£165 million of public funding was initially allocated to Project Stratum to address just over 76,000 eligible premises. £150 million of this was allocated by the UK Government as a result of the confidence and supply agreement between the DUP and the Conservatives, with an additional £15 million allocated by DAERA. A further £32 million of public funding was secured for the project in January 2022, with £22 million allocated by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), £5 million by DfE and a further £5 million by DAERA.

Fibrus Chief Operating Officer Shane Haslem, who describes Stratum’s goal as “bringing Northern Ireland out of the digital dark ages”, says the company’s agility was central to the project’s success.

“The life-changing element of Project Stratum was evident among those who had previously struggled with lack of speed and connectivity,” he explains.

“Families can now reap the benefits of being able to access everything the internet has to offer.

“Fibre to the premise technology is more robust and provides a much more stable and high-quality service.

“Unfortunately, digital inequality remains a reality for too many people and communities, but Project Stratum complimented with our own commercial build is helping to put an end to that in Northern Ireland towns and villages.

“Tackling that inequality, particularly in rural areas, is why Fibrus exists.

“We are committed to delivering significant, lasting change. That is not a goal, it is our crusade.”

A report by Ookla, published in October 2022, found that Fibrus offered “the fastest median download speed in four counties” in Northern Ireland when compared to some leading UK fixed broadband providers.

Haslem says the findings “confirm the speed benefits and reliability our network provides to customers who choose to sign up with us”.

He adds: “Many phone and TV companies still use slow copper networks from the cabinet to the premises whereas it is full fibre all the way with us, providing world class performance and faster network speeds. Consumers should no longer accept a service that delivers poor performance.”

Former Economy Minister Gordon Lyons MLA described Project Stratum as one of the most important major infrastructure projects that Northern Ireland has ever seen.

“Project Stratum is made possible by funding provided through the DUP/Conservative confidence and supply agreement and aims to make Northern Ireland one of the best-connected countries in the world,” he says.

“The 85,000 premises set to benefit from this much-needed public intervention will help close a broadband connectivity gap that has existed in Northern Ireland compared with other parts of the UK at superfast levels.

“Project Stratum aims to maximise coverage for as many eligible premises as possible across predominantly rural areas of Northern Ireland, and all premises to benefit will have access to full fibre, gigabit capable broadband.”

T: 028 9099 3230

Show More
Back to top button