More than four in five Northern Ireland homes have access to full-fibre broadband
NEARLY 700,000 homes in Northern Ireland - equivalent to four in every five - can now access the fastest, most reliable internet connections as the roll-out of full fibre technology continues.
And average broadband download speeds here have increased by 40 per cent to 115 Mbit/s, up from 82 Mbit/s in 2021, reflecting increasing availability and take-up of faster broadband services.
That's according to Ofcom’s annual Connected Nations report, which measures the availability of broadband and mobile services across the UK.
It found that full fibre connections are now available to at least 695,000 homes in the north – an increase of over 155,000 from last year.
Among the four UK nations, Northern Ireland has by far the highest availability of full fibre services at 85 per cent, which is more than twice the other regions (England and Scotland are both at 41 per cent while Wales sits at 40 per cent).
With households now using 481 GB of data a month on average, full fibre can better support families who need to stream, work, game, video-call and study online all at the same time.
The Ofcom report estimates that the take-up of services using full fibre at any speed, where fibre is available, is around 25 per cent in Northern Ireland – up from 19 per cent last year.
The significant increase in the availability of high-speed internet services over the last year is a result of continued significant commercial and publicly funded investment in fibre networks.
The Stormont Executive’s Project Stratum broadband scheme, which is aimed at rural areas, is progressing at pace, while Openreach, Virgin Media and Fibrus continue with commercial deployments to urban and semi-rural areas.
As of October, Project Stratum, which aims to provide a full fibre service to 85,000 premises that can’t get a superfast service, had reached the halfway mark, with more than 46,000 premises passed.
A rise in full fibre coverage is especially notable in several mainly rural council areas where coverage had previously been very low. In Fermanagh and Omagh, full fibre coverage now extends to some 71 per cent of residential premises, up from just 36 per cent a year ago.
Full fibre coverage in Mid Ulster is now 75 per cent, up from 53 per cent a year ago.
Indeed, every council area, with the exception of Belfast which already had high levels of coverage, has seen double digit increases in full fibre availability over the last year.
Ofcom’s Northern Ireland director Jonathan Rose said: “Many more people are benefitting from faster, more reliable internet as the rapid roll-out of full-fibre broadband continues. Indeed, Northern Ireland has shown the way with the highest availability in the UK of these faster services.
“And with further publicly funded investment planned to deliver fast broadband to hard-to-reach areas, Northern Ireland is well on the way towards 100 per cent full fibre availability.”
For the first time Ofcom is also reporting on the rollout of 5G coverage in Northern Ireland, which is still in the early stages of deployment. 5G coverage outside of premises in Northern Ireland from individual mobile network operators ranges from 14 to 26 per cent
Around one in five mobile handsets are now 5G-capable, a figure that has doubled over the past 12 months, while 5G traffic in the UK has trebled over the same period and now makes up almost 10 per cent of all mobile traffic.