Around 360,000 homes across Northern Ireland can now access 'full fibre' broadband, it has emerged.
Openreach, which is the infrastructure arm of BT, says more than 40% of properties can now access ‘full fibre’ broadband with speeds of up to 1Gbps.
It aims to reach 525,000 premises, which is 60%, by the end of March 2021. That would put Northern Ireland ahead of the rest of the UK.
It comes as a new paper by Ulster University and Openreach says full deployment of broadband by 2025 could boost the Northern Ireland economy by £1.3bn and employment by 1.6%.
Speaking about his findings and the future of the network in NI, Richard Johnston, deputy director of the Ulster University Economic Research Centre, said: “This year will certainly be on that will go down in history.
“A year when restrictions have had a significantly negative impact on the NI economy, leaving the region in the midst of a rapid and relatively deep downturn. It has also been a year that so far has changed how, where and in some cases when, we work, learn and relax.
“And we’ve seen the acceleration of existing trends such as digitisation, remote working and online commerce as well as a seismic shift towards digital working, learning and consumption.”
Mairead Meyer, director of Openreach Northern Ireland, said: “The full fibre build programme is central to NI’s digital future and economic growth and will provide the region with more reliable, faster and future-proof broadband. We’re delighted to have reached a milestone of 360,000 premises today and are on track with our plans to achieve 525,000 by the end of March 2021, covering 60% of homes and businesses.
“We are building right across Northern Ireland. We have recently finished projects from Bangor and Magherafelt to Enniskillen, as well as building Full Fibre to rural communities in Tamnaghmore and Upper Ballinderry amongst others.
"We’re also proud that our build programme is making NI a leader within the UK and keeping the region at the forefront of digital technology. We have 72%coverage of full fibre in Belfast City, making the capital the second-best covered city in the UK, and seven out of 11 NI council areas are within the top 20 council areas in the UK for access to faster connectivity speeds.
“This paper highlights the benefits that full fibre could bring. With a potential economic boost of £1.3bn, jobs created across NI and people better able to live and work no matter where they are located – it could boost productivity and renew towns and communities across the region. We’re committed to bringing ultra-reliable and ultrafast broadband to as many people as we can, as quickly as possible, and to build a strong and resilient network that meets the needs of our customers and of the region, now and in the future.”