Northern Ireland’s broadband upgrade scheme will push faster services further out to the sticks, thanks to an extra £1 million in funding.
The additional cash comes from the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation budget, with the aim of making superfast services as widely available as possible.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Broadband provision is about more than tackling isolation.
“From children doing research for homework, to parents working or shopping online or interacting with Local and Central Government, and with businesses now more than ever trading online in a global market place, it is imperative that rural areas are not disadvantaged when it comes to broadband provision.”
Related: BT promises address-level upgrade to fibre broadband checkerWhile the majority of firms and families throughout Northern Ireland can order superfast services from BT’s Openreach network, there are still areas that face being excluded.
The £23.5 million Northern Ireland Improvement Project aims to make faster broadband available to an extra 45,000 premises by 2016.
This will be a mixture of superfast broadband – defined as any service delivering 24Mbps or higher – and a basic broadband service, guaranteeing customers at least 2Mbps at all times.
A Department of Trade and Industry spokesperson told Recombu that to date the project has ‘brought improvements’ to 32,000 properties in Northern Ireland, although it’s unclear how many of those improvements are superfast or basic.
It’s also unclear how many premises are expected to be able to order superfast broadband as a result of this extra £1 million injection.
A separate Superfast Rollout Project has been set up which aims to bring superfast services to 38,000 premises across Northern Ireland by the end of 2017. It’s currently unclear exactly which parts of Northern Ireland will benefit from this second scheme.
BT is rolling out FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) and FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) connections across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. These deliver top download speeds of 80Mbps and 330Mbps respectively – although the technical limitations of FTTC’s copper last mile mean that the total about of bandwidth you get depends greatly on your proximity to a street cabinet.
In the future, BT plans to increase the headline speeds possible on its network by introducing G.fast technology, which can has demonstrated download speeds of 500-700Mbps in trials.
Earlier this year, BT recently connected its first customer in Northern Ireland to FTTP, replacing a creaky old 0.5Mbps copper connection with a 300Mbps+ fibre optic line.
Previous tests have shown that BT’s current FTTP lines can deliver download speeds of 10Gbps, though it’ll likely be years before BT makes gigabit fibre services commercially available.