Broadband company vows NI will have full coverage by 2025
Fibre broadband provider Fibrus has announced a plan to plug any remaining gaps in coverage here so that 100% of Northern Ireland homes have full fibre by 2025.
The plan, which involves a £100m investment, would make Northern Ireland the first region in the UK or Ireland to reach full coverage.
Fibrus said full-fibre broadband was key to realising the full potential of digital technology - especially in regional and rural areas.
It has said that full-fibre is as key to economic development for the 21st century as railways and electricity in previous eras.
Founder and chairman Conal Henry said: "Northern Ireland customers have already spent over £2bn on broadband, but up until recently it seemed that only 60% of NI homes would get full fibre.
"Now, with Fibrus' investment in regional towns and timely interventions by the NI Executive in areas that are not commercially viable coverage is expected to grow to 88%.
"Today we are committing to ensure the remaining 12% gap will get filled buy 2025."
Mr Henry said that at present, most customers receive broadband through networks originally designed for phone or TV traffic.
However, full-fibre networks are designed just for broadband. However, no major region in Western Europe has reached full fibre coverage.
But Fibrus said that realising its plan would enable Northern Ireland to transform its economy.
It has already completed fibre networks in towns around South Down - which Fibrus said left it ahead of its plan to build full-fibre broadband in 100 towns.
Fibrus said it had carried out detailed analysis of existing and planned full-fibre networks across Northern Ireland.
Mr Henry said: "The truth is that relying on a copper company to build our full fibre future is akin to waiting on the canal companies to build the railways.
"Only proper platform competition can stimulate investment and Fibrus are here in NI to deliver exactly that."
Fibrus claimed that existing phone and cable networks could only connect 61% of homes.
Forecasts suggest that recent investments by Fibrus and the expected impact of government-supported projects in areas that wouldn't otherwise be commercially viable will increase this coverage to 88%.
Fibrus now wants to ensure the last remaining gap gets filled, to achieve 100% Fibrus coverage.
The company said it has now started a detailed planning and design exercise for homes which are not connected.
Fibrus said that the net result was that "all homes in NI can look forward, with confidence, to a full fibre future by 2025".
The company last month announced that it is to be taken over by Infracapital, the infrastructure equity investment arm of M&G plc.
Infracapital is to acquire a controlling interest in the business and provide funding for the commercial roll-out. The deal marks its first investment in Northern Ireland.
Speaking last month, Mr Henry said the firm was "exceptionally proud" to bring the investment to Northern Ireland.
He added: "Alongside Infracapital, Fibrus now has the firepower to deliver, at scale and pace, our radical plan to transform the broadband landscape in the region. With this investment we will deliver the digital infrastructure that will transform our economy and our society."