Broadband News

Openreach hits 40% FTTP milestone for Northern Ireland and aims to add another 20%

Northern Ireland was one of the first regions of the UK to embrace VDSL2 and it is very much leading the charge for full fibre with an overall coverage of 47.03% once you factor in Openreach and Virgin Media RFOG.

Openreach has announced today that it has reached the 40% milestone for premises able to order FTTP over its network (our tracking had Northern Ireland recording 39.65% Openreach full fibre coverage. In term of the actual number of premises Openreach is saying 360,000 have access to full fibre (our database is showing 332,470 premises, but there are a number of exchanges that may have more premises to be found in next week or two).

The reason for the news item is not so much the milestone being passed but Openreach has announced the aim to get to 525,000 premises i.e. 60% by the end of March 2021. If all the extra build is existing premises that would equal 62% in our database, but as new build properties will mean the total number of premises in Northern Ireland rises it means we will track towards a figure between 60 and 62%.

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 7 out of 11 NI council areas are within the top 20* council areas in the UK for access to faster connectivity speeds.

Mairead Meyer, Director of Openreach Northern Ireland

The coverage levels in order of descending Openreach FTTP coverage for the Northern Irish councils as of 23rd June 2020 are below.

Local Authority Superfast (30Mbps +) Coverage
% premises
Openreach FTTP
% premises
Full Fibre (FTTP) all operators
% premises
Belfast 99.01 72.7 72.75
Lisburn and Castlereagh 93.5 52.67 56.49
Derry and Strabane 90.56 44.84 53.79
Antrim and Newtownabbey 91.99 39.29 46.95
Ards and North Down 94.78 32.73 47.91
Fermanagh and Omagh 69.48 28.75 28.75
Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon 87.65 26.81 48.46
Mid Ulster 75.14 24.59 24.59
Mid and East Antrim 89.67 22.77 49.79
Causeway Coast and Glens 84.69 22.12 23.34
Mourne and Down 82.02 20.22 20.22

We have left the superfast (30 Mbps and faster) column in place since while Northern Ireland is leading on full fibre the project to fill in the gaps in the superfast coverage known as Project Stratum is stuck in the paperwork phases. Project Stratum if it delivers is meant to bring superfast speeds to some 78,500 premises, which would add 9.4% to the superfast total for Northern Ireland bringing the region within 1 to 2% of universal superfast coverage.

Looking to the future there is the wildcard of Fibrus, who are investing £85 million in a roll-out to 100 towns and are competing with BT for the contract to build out to those getting slow speeds. It is believed Fibrus has built its network to around 3,000 premises in the South Down area but as yet we've not found this to add to our datasets. Fibrus has committed itself to pushing Northern Ireland to 100% full fibre coverage by the end of 2025 by virtue of filling in the gaps, though we suspect this may be partly dependant on what happens with Project Stratum.

Virgin Media has been very active in Northern Ireland already and its cable network passes 42.6% of premises and we believe the RFOG (FTTP) area covers some 90,937 premises. 18 months ago the Virgin Media footprint was only 29.5% of premises and a year ago had risen to 32.6%. So the big jump has been in the last 12 months and this pattern repeats for Openreach FTTP which 12 months ago was covering just 1.6% of Northern Ireland at the end of June 2019.

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