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Belfast and Nottingham have become the latest cities to be added to Openreach’s full-fibre broadband network build programme, Fibre First, with work set to begin imminently on expanding access to gigabit-capable broadband.
The Belfast roll-out builds on the new Belfast Region City Deal – officially announced in the Budget at the end of October – which is set to invest millions in the area around four key pillars: innovation and digital, tourism-led regeneration, infrastructure, and employability and skills.
Belfast’s digital sector already generates almost £900m per annum, and the city council hopes that providing a vastly upgraded broadband service will help boost the local tech industry.
“It is brilliant news that Belfast will be the first full-fibre city in Northern Ireland. At the heart of our Belfast Region City Deal vision is a drive to deliver inclusive growth and to focus efforts on areas such as the digital sector where we can become genuinely world class,” said Donal Lyons, chair of Belfast City Council’s city growth and regeneration committee.
“Improving our infrastructure is absolutely vital to our future success, so it is very exciting to know that Belfast is leading the way again in becoming a fibre city. In laying fibre-optic cables directly to people’s front doors, Openreach is supporting the next generation of faster broadband technology, and helping to secure our digital future for years to come,” he added.
The roll-out will initially target the Crumlin, Falls, Shankill, Shore, Malone, Ormeau, Lisburn and Upper Newtownards Road areas.
Mairead Meyer, managing director of the recently rebranded Openreach Northern Ireland unit, formerly BT’s Northern Ireland Networks business, said: “[Belfast] is already a key player in the global digital economy, and we are getting on with building the digital infrastructure it needs to stay ahead. As we build our fibre network directly to people’s front doors, we remain committed to staying at the forefront of innovation and providing customers with the digital connectivity they need and deserve.”
Meanwhile, in Nottingham, work will begin shortly in the Gedling area of the city on building out new full-fibre services, augmenting existing work in the area that has taken place through the Better Broadband for Nottinghamshire programme. Openreach claims 98% of homes and businesses in Nottingham can access so-called superfast broadband, meaning a fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) connection, which is slower than an ultrafast full-fibre one.
“This is fantastic news for Nottingham, and I’m thrilled that my constituency of Gedling is leading the way. The way we use the internet is changing all the time – more and more of our communities and businesses rely on an effective broadband connection,” said local MP Vernon Coaker.
“This announcement is great in terms of faster and more reliable broadband, but also for the new jobs and the long-term boost it will bring to the area.”
Launched earlier in 2018, the Fibre First programme is targeting major urban areas for the time being, with work in Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds, Liverpool and London all now underway.
Openreach claims that under the auspices of the programme, it is now passing thousands of properties per week, as part of a wider ambition to reach 10 million premises across the UK by the middle of the 2020s.
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