A broadband roll-out worth £52m has been completed on time and on budget.
The Next Generation Broadband Project involved the introduction of new technology to increase broadband speeds, primarily for businesses users, across Northern Ireland.
Over the past 18 months, the scheme has seen BT invest close to £30m, with a further £16.5m coming from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) and the EU, of which £10.5m was invested in rural areas and £6m in urban areas.
Around £1.5m has also been invested from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, attracting a further boost totalling £4m.
The contract with BT involved the deployment of fibre optic cable deeper into Northern Ireland’s urban districts, towns, villages and countryside. Equipment was upgraded across 166 exchanges and new technology was introduced to increase broadband speeds to businesses.
Graham Sutherland, chief executive officer with BT Northern Ireland, said that by March 2012, at least 89% of all phone lines will be connected to a fibre-enabled street cabinet.
“This is exceptional progress, propelling Northern Ireland ahead of major European countries, and providing more and more consumers and businesses in rural and urban areas with access to high speed broadband services,” he added.
“BT is proud to have played a key role in this landmark initiative, both in terms of investment and successful delivery, and are impressed by the strong demand and positive testimonials we have seen to date.”
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said that use of these new services will help businesses and the economy.
Meanwhile, a new report has revealed average UK broadband speed has increased by 10% this year.
Research from communications regulator Ofcom showed an increase from 6.2Mbps in November/December 2010 to 6.8 in May this year. It also said superfast broadband is now available to most UK homes.