Further details have today been revealed about a new UK Government funded project that will see ten councils (outside of Belfast) in Northern Ireland coming together in order to benefit from a new Gigabit speed “full fibre” (FTTP / Dark Fibre) network, which aims to connect around 880 public sector sites by March 2021.
The deployment is being supported by a public investment of £15 million, which was recently awarded under Wave 3 of the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme (here). As part of that ten councils have formed the Full Fibre Northern Ireland Consortium (FFNI) to oversee the project and this is being led by the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The project appears to follow the usual Public-Sector Anchor Tenancy model, which will first focus upon connecting public sector sites to the new fibre optic lines before later opening this network up for use by ISPs to offer 1Gbps broadband services to local businesses and possibly even homes.
At the time of writing we do not yet have a full list of all the councils that will benefit from the new network, although we note that both the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and the Derry City and City and Strabane District Council have put out supporting announcements. Oddly the lead council has not.
Margot James, UK Minister for Digital, said:
“We’re building a Britain that’s fit for the future, and our plans for a national full fibre broadband network underpin our modern Industrial Strategy. This £15 million boost for gigabit speeds in Northern Ireland will benefit homes and businesses across the country and I congratulate the Full Fibre Northern Ireland Consortium in its successful bid.”
Paul Michael, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, said:
“I am delighted that the FFNI Consortium has secured additional funding from DCMS to support the enhancement of digital infrastructure across Northern Ireland.
Investing in connectivity is essential for economic growth and prosperity, and will help to further establish both the Borough of Antrim and Newtownabbey and all of Northern Ireland as a digital destination for investment, jobs and business infrastructure. This is an excellent example of local councils working together for the benefit of the whole region.”
The announcements all state that “currently only 12% of premises in Northern Ireland have access to full fibre connectivity,” although that is based off Ofcom’s figure from September 2018 and the ferocious pace of change means that this has already risen to 16% in January 2019; the highest level of full fibre coverage in the United Kingdom.