Gigabit 'full fibre' broadband now available in over 360,000 NI homes and businesses

  • Openreach reports that 360,000 premises in Northern Ireland are now able to access gigabit-capable 'full fibre' broadband, and it may play a key role in NI's economic recovery.

    The vast majority of homes and businesses in Northern Ireland have been able to access fibre broadband now for several years, providing download speeds of up to around 76 megabit depending on broadband package. This 'fibre to the cabinet' broadband uses fibre optic cables that run to switching cabinets on every street, which then link up with traditional copper phone wiring to get into people's homes.

    The next major upgrade that's been rolling out across the UK is 'full fibre' or 'fibre to the premises' in which the fibre optic cable runs all the way up to the individual home or business, offering speeds of up to around 1,000 megabit. Openreach reported this week that it's managed to make this available to up to 360,000 premises in Northern Ireland already, putting coverage at 40%.

    A new report from Ulster University's Economic Policy Centre has also highlighted the economic benefits that can come with investment in a full fibre network, making the case that it will play an important role in the region's recovery from Covid-19. The full deployment of full fibre is estimated to boost the NI economy by up to £1.3bn by 2025

    While full fibre may just mean faster download speeds and higher resolution streaming for most residential customers, it will have a significant impact businesses. Northern Ireland's tech sector has been shifting from office-based to remote work during the lockdown, and faster internet speeds and high rates of rural coverage will help keep that more feasible in the long term.

    Other benefits include the removal of barriers to employment, enabling more vulnerable people or those with care responsibilities to enter the workforce by working from home. Fast internet and improved video stream resolutions will also help with emerging technologies such as telehealth.

    Openreach Northern Ireland Director Mairead Meyer commented on the milestone: "We’re delighted to have reached a milestone of 360,000 premises today and are on track with our plans to achieve 525,000 by the end of March 2021, covering 60% of homes and businesses. We are building right across Northern Ireland."

    Richard Johnston, Deputy Director of the Ulster University Economic Research Centre, commented on the report: "Even after the COVID-19 crisis subsides, it is reasonable to expect that infrastructure demand will continue to increase. As NI moves towards reopening its doors for business, the roll-out of Full Fibre broadband infrastructure will be a key enabling technology."

    Source: Written based on press release

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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