Network access provider Openreach (BT) has today announced that a further 94 rural villages and towns have been added to their UK roll-out plan for 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP technology over the next 2 years, but all of them will be in Northern Ireland.
The latest announcement forms part of the operator’s on-going commercial deployment in N.Ireland, which recently extended coverage to 360,000 premises (up by 100,000 since January 2020 alone) and aims to reach 525,000 premises (60% coverage) by March 2021. By comparison today’s update includes a build programme that will run even longer, until March 2022.
Overall, 124 locations across NI have now been included in Openreach’s build programme and the company is currently covering 750 premises every day. The fact that all of this is being done via a commercial project is important and reflects some of the operator’s recent advancements in civil engineering (here and here), which have helped to bring the per premises cost of deployment down to a more manageable level.
Recent rural FTTP deployments have tested various innovations, such as remote FTTP nodes (Mini OLT) in street cabinets, the ditch witch cutter, micro ducting, ground penetrating radar, diamond cutters (trench digging), mobile planning (Orion) and a GeoRipper (used for digging trenches across soft ground at pace) etc.
Mairead Meyer, Director of Openreach Northern Ireland, said:
“As one of the biggest investors in infrastructure in Northern Ireland, Openreach is committed to bringing ultra-reliable and ultrafast broadband to as many people as we can, as quickly as possible. With that in mind, we’re delighted to announce a further 94 towns and villages today that will be part of our ‘Full Fibre’ build programme and particularly pleased that so many of these areas are in rural communities.
This is important to us as we look to play a role in the economic recovery and long-term growth of NI. Ensuring that we’re balanced in our build programme is central to this and our engineers are building to over 750 homes every day in both rural and urban areas. In addition, we also have schemes in place, such as our ‘Community Fibre Partnerships, which is bringing broadband to areas that are harder to reach and making sure no one gets left behind.
To support the build programme, we’ve also announced that we’re recruiting over 100 apprentice engineers across the region between now and March 2021. Our new recruits will be joining the team at a really exciting time and if anyone is interested in applying, they can find out more on our website.
We’re hopeful that with continued investment in the ‘Full Fibre’ broadband network, there will be benefits for everyone right across NI, no matter where they live, work or study and we’re proud to be building a strong and resilient network that will meet the needs of everyone, now and in the future.”
At this point it goes without saying that in order to go further Openreach will also be looking to grab a slice of Project Stratum, which has committed £165m of state aid funding (mostly via the UK Government) to help extend “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) to an additional 78,500 premises across NI (primarily using full fibre solutions). Both BT and rival Fibrus are currently bidding on this and a winner due in September 2020.
Ofcom’s previous Spring 2020 coverage report revealed that N.Ireland has Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) coverage of 41% (more than any other part of the United Kingdom), which is up sharply from 25% in May 2019 and rising rapidly.
Openreach NI Build Locations: