BT accelerates investment to help Northern Ireland become European fibre broadband leader

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BT, the global communications and IT services company, has announced a major broadband investment that will cement Northern Ireland’s position at the forefront of the fibre broadband revolution in Europe by March 2012. The investment is part of BT Group’s £2.5 billion fibre roll-out in the UK.

BT’s latest investment in fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology builds on previous fibre investments by the company, both direct and in partnership with the public sector, and will result in the number of lines connected to a fibre broadband cabinet jumping from 54 percent to 88 percent. Upon completion, Northern Ireland will be one of the best connected locations in the world, with more fibre deployed by March 2012 than most major European countries aspire to roll-out by 2015.

The roll-out of fibre by BT in Northern Ireland is one of the largest engineering projects undertaken to date in the region. This latest chapter will be delivered by 200 existing BT employees and third party contractors, as well as an additional 60 new recruits.

Fibre broadband will help transform Northern Ireland’s local economy – opening up exciting new opportunities for consumers, businesses and public sector organisations, as well as helping to attract high value, high growth companies to Northern Ireland. Fibre to the cabinet technology provides download speeds of up to 40Mbps and upload speeds of up to 10Mbps. For businesses, data can be uploaded or downloaded in a fraction of the time, even when several users are on the same connection. For consumers, a music track can be downloaded in two seconds and a whole album in 30 seconds.

Crucially, this fibre network is ‘competition-ready’ and available on an open, wholesale basis to all communications providers on equivalent terms. This ensures that consumers and businesses will reap the benefits of greater choice and competition in the market.

Graham Sutherland, Chief Executive Officer, BT in Northern Ireland said, “This is a great moment in Northern Ireland’s broadband story. High speed fibre broadband is transformational – it changes how we live, how we educate, how our businesses send their products and ideas around the world.”

“Despite the challenging economic climate in Northern Ireland, broadband investment is a priority for BT. And we are proud of the central role we are playing in giving Northern Ireland a lead in fibre broadband league tables.”

US Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, said, “Today’s announcement by BT about fibre broadband roll-out will see Northern Ireland setting the pace in the UK and Europe. From a business perspective, the investment sends a clear signal about Northern Ireland’s commitment to providing the infrastructure required by today’s leading companies. I have no doubt that the fibre broadband investment will help attract significant new business to the region in the months and years to come.”

The roll-out of this latest phase of network will begin immediately and run until March 2012. The areas to benefit will be announced on a rolling basis and published on www.nibroadband.com.

Faster broadband also plays a key role in social development, and to coincide with its accelerated network roll-out, BT today launched a new programme to help tackle digital exclusion in Northern Ireland. Through its Connected Communities programme, BT will partner with voluntary organisations to provide a suite of information and communications technology resources for communities to help them get online and harness the power of the internet.

The Northern Ireland communities that BT will work with in the initial pilot phase include: The Ashton Centre in the Newlodge, North Belfast; Greater Shankill Development Association, West Belfast; and The Gasyard Development Trust (part of the Triax Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership), Derry City.

The suite of resources that BT will provide, in association with other partners, includes; fibre broadband; personal computers; certified training courses; and a single portal with the tools needed to support those taking steps to get online. BT’s employees will work as volunteers in the communities, sharing their skills in communications and IT services.