NORTHERN Ireland firms could make over £750m of additional revenue and save around £45m in operating costs within five years through exploiting fibre broadband, according to a new study.
Communications giant BT's fibre business impact study, conducted by consultancy firm Regeneris in January this year, aimed to identify what benefits fibre could bring to companies in the creative and digital, agri-food, financial, retail and advanced manufacturing sectors by 2018.
The results were compared with a sample of similar sectors in the United States.
In the US, 41% of revenue in the creative and digital sector – recently singled out for investment by Chancellor George Osborne in his budget – has been attributed to use of the internet. By switching to fibre broadband, firms in this sector could potentially generate an extra £76m in revenue, increasing the current value of the internet to these firms by almost 14%, according to the report.
The findings also reveal that a switch to fibre could increase the proportion of sales generated through the internet in this sector from 39% to 50%. Colm O' Neill, chief executive of BT in Northern Ireland, said that Northern Ireland's fibre network is already ahead of the UK and Europe in terms of availability.
"Significant investment has been made by BT Ireland both through direct investment as part of BT Group's £2.5bn fibre roll-out in the UK and in its partnership with the Northern Ireland government for the Next Generation Broadband Project," he said.
"The research demonstrates that much more can be made of the investment.
"In the creative and digital sector... use of the internet can reduce operating costs by 11%. In the agri-food sector there is potential for firms to generate 31% of their revenue from the internet, while increasing internet-enabled cost savings by over 10%, and this story is similar for the other sectors researched."