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BT is to invest £20m in the commercial roll-out of ultrafast fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband networks in Northern Ireland, and hopes to provide services to 140,000 properties – about 25% of homes and businesses in the region – by March 2019.
The extra cash will complement a current joint investment programme that BT is working on with the devolved Northern Ireland government. It will flow through BT Northern Ireland because Openreach does not operate in the region in the same way as it does in England, Scotland and Wales.
It also comes in addition to £150m of UK government money promised to Northern Ireland to support its broadband network upgrade, which formed part of the £1bn paid out by prime minister Theresa May to win support from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) after she lost her parliamentary majority in the general election.
BT Northern Ireland’s MD of networks, Mairead Meyer, said: “We are delighted to be investing at this significant level, delivering against our local ambition to future-proof our Northern Ireland infrastructure and rank favourably among the best fibre networks in Europe.
“These investments are underpinning Northern Ireland’s internet economy and society, and bringing an online experience like never before to consumers and organisations.
“We have been sharing our fibre broadband vision with key stakeholders and today’s announcement is ultimately about driving choice and competition in this market because the network is available on an open wholesale basis to all broadband providers, meaning households and businesses will benefit from a choice of services, competitive pricing and products.”
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- Openreach has been testing new network design techniques, and a brand new digger, as it rolls out full fibre broadband to some of Scotland’s remotest communities.
- SSE Enterprise Telecoms has signed an agreement with Thames Water to deploy fibre broadband cables throughout the utility’s sewage pipes.
BT said it would also step up recruitment of apprentices and graduates to work on the upgrade. It hopes to bring 42 new staffers on board between now and September 2018 in a variety of roles, including network design, planning and construction.