Business

Fibrus win £165m deal to deliver hyper-fast full-fibre broadband to 78,750 rural premises

Craig Adair from Fibrus with MLAs Mervyn Storey and Cara Hunter when the firm announced plans in September to invest £14m in the Causeway Coast & Glens to connect homes and businesses to its hyper-fast full-fibre broadband. Fibrus has now been awarded the government's Project Stratum contract
Gary McDonald Business Editor

INDUSTRY newcomer Fibrus Networks has been formally unveiled as the preferred partner in a £165 million contract to roll out full fibre broadband to 78,750 rural homes and businesses in the north by March 2024.

As revealed by the Irish News in September, it was selected ahead of telecoms giant BT’s infrastructural arm Openreach to deliver the Project Stratum next-generation broadband network scheme, following a procurement process run by the Department for the Economy.

It represents a massive coup for Fibrus, which was only established in September 2018 following a joint venture between telecoms entrepreneur Dominic Kearns of technology group b4b and former Enet chief executive Conal Henry.

Project Stratum represents an investment of £150 million by the Department for the Economy and another £15 million by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

And alongside that state-aid, Fibrus will pump in at least the same again from its own funds in what will be the biggest-ever investment in ensuring rural homes and businesses can access broadband speeds of 30 megabits per second or greater.

The move will also significantly increase Fibrus's footprint in the north from its current 15 per cent.

And between it and the other two full fibre operators Openreach and Virgin Media, it means Northern Ireland should be on the way to full fibre coverage by 2025.

“Today's announcement is a milestone for Fibrus and for Northern Ireland,” Fibrus chairman Conal Henry said.

“Our partnership with the NI Executive positions Northern Ireland a digital global leader.

“Full fibre broadband is key to unlocking the full economic and social potential of our rural communities and is as vital a part of our 21st century infrastructure as power, water or transport.

“This investment enables towns, villages and rural communities to change the narrative, keep people and communities connected and facilitate the increasing demand for working and studying at home.”

Fibrus has already invested £65 million to bring full fibre broadband (FFB) to towns in South Down, Mid Ulster and North Antrim.

And the Stratum project will bring the total investment in Fibrus’ network over the next four years to £350 million, radically accelerating and extending FFB across the north.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “This announcement means we are one step closer to bringing next generation broadband services to those businesses and people who need it most.

“While always recognised as important, the pandemic and restrictions we have all had to live under have underscored the importance of broadband connectivity, and Project Stratum will transform the broadband connectivity landscape for many of our citizens and businesses across primarily rural areas.”

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