Business

Funding announcement expected for expansion of Project Stratum broadband project

Funding to connect an additional 2,517 premises to full-fibre broadband is expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Ryan McAleer

AN announcement on the expansion of a project to link 76,000 premises to full-fibre broadband in the north is expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Start-up firm Fibrus was awarded the £165 million Project Stratum contract in November 2020.

An additional 2,517 premises are now expected to be added to the scheme, subject to additional funding from London.

Stormont’s Economy Committee heard on Wednesday that Fibrus has already linked up 1,482 premises as part of the three-year roll-out of the scheme.

It remains on course to reach 19,000 in 2021.

But questions have persisted over a number of premises left outside the scope the major broadband infrastructure project.

Chief executive of Fibrus Dominic Kearns said the company is seeking to extend the network further. He said the UK Government’s recent announcement on Project Gigabit, which has set ambitious targets for next generation broadband, and Ofcom’s recent ruling on full-fibre connections, should facilitate the expansion of Project Stratum.

“Off the back of this, we hope to announce soon an extension of our commercial roll-out plan to address more homes and businesses that are in need of this technology,” said Mr Kearns.

Project Stratum’s progamme director, Steve Edwards, said proposals are being developed with the Department for the Economy (DfE) to bring an additional 2,517 premises into the scheme.

The planned roll-out of Project Stratum by area.

DfE’s project director Nigel Robbins said negotiations were ongoing with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) in London.

“We hope by the summer to draw conclusions with DCMS to secure additional funding,” he said.

“The £165m was never a budget, it was a significant sum of money to address a problem, so further funding is required to complete that task and to address the particularly hard to reach premises,” he added.

“It remains our aspiration not to leave any eligible premises behind.”

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