Fibre start-up to double its workforce as Project Stratum bidder is named soon

Naomhan McCrory, managing director at Viberoptix, pictured with Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during a visit to its Coalisland factory. The company is planning to double its workforce. Photo: Kelvin Boyes/PressEye
Gary McDonald, Business Editor

A COALISLAND start-up is set to double its workforce to around 70 people to meet the expected demand for full fibre broadband.

Infrastructure firm Viberoptix, which was only formally incorporated in January, already had more than 30 people on its payroll by the start of lockdown.

But direct staff numbers have since increased to 44 - and now a fresh recruitment drive has begun to hire at least 20 more engineers to meet demand.

Viberoptix engineers lay and activate fibre optic cables to build full fibre networks which service individual customer properties.

Among its clients is Fibrus, which one of two bidders (along with Openreach) in the running to secure delivery rights in the £165 million Project Stratum process to deliver superfast broadband to 80,000 mainly rural homes in the north.

An announcement on which of them will be the preferred bidder is due at the end of next month, subject to final approvals and state aid assurance.

Having every home in the north connected to full fibre broadband by 2025 would create a £1.3 billion boost to the region’s economy, according to data from the Centre for Business and Economic Research.

Naomhan McCrory, managing director at Viberoptix, said: “Access to full fibre broadband is more critical now than ever, and we have seen that during the pandemic reliable high quality broadband is now an essential utility in the same way as light, water and heat.

“Demand is increasing, and that goes hand in hand with the service offered by Viberoptix.”

He added: “We already have a team of qualified engineers who are well experienced in delivering excellent service to the fibre network construction and maintenance sector.

“But we need to continue recruiting infrastructure and fibre engineers, and are interested in talented, innovative and ambitious individuals to join our team.

“Our existing team of experienced and certified engineers are leaders in their field providing excellence in every aspect of the fibre network construction, installation and maintenance.”

Among the directors at the company - which has received support from Invest NI - is Kevin Anthony Lagan (38), chief executive of H&J Martin, part of the Lagan Specialist Contracting Group.

Viberoptix was visited earlier this month by Deputy First Minister and Mid-Ulster MLA Michelle O’Neill, who was told first hand of the firm's ambitious growth plans.

She said: “The availability of high speed broadband is crucial to how we live, work, communicate and do business, so it's vital we have full roll-out as soon as possible, especially in our rural communities which have shouldered the burden of restricted access for too long.

“I was delighted to hear about the part Viberoptix playing in making full fibre broadband accessible to all our homes and business. The new company is a real asset to the Mid-Ulster area and its increasing workforce will be a boost to the regional economy.”

Full fibre broadband is seen as being more reliable than traditional copper connections (a fibre optic cable can send a signal around 120 miles without any real loss of quality where copper cables can lose signal at around one mile).

Pure fibre optic broadband can run at speeds of one gigabit per second, more than 15 times faster than today’s UK average broadband speed, which means customers can download a two-hour HD film in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea.

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