Consultants say Northern Ireland's new next-generation broadband set to drive knowledge economy growth

DECEMBER 3, 2009 -- An announcement by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster that nearly GBP 50 million will be invested in Northern Ireland's telecom infrastructure follows the successful completion of a competitive procurement process led on behalf of the government by Analysys Mason, global adviser on telecom, technology, and media.

DECEMBER 3, 2009 -- An announcement by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster that nearly GBP 50 million will be invested in Northern Ireland's telecom infrastructure follows the successful completion of a competitive procurement process led on behalf of the government by Analysys Mason, global adviser on telecom, technology, and media.

Welcoming the announcement, Pat Kidney, head of Analysys Mason in Ireland, says, "This project is among the first next-generation broadband interventions, and builds on Analysys Mason's experience around the world of advising governments on these types of project."

"The major investments by BT Ireland and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment will have a significant impact on Northern Ireland's economy," adds Kidney. "Broadband penetration is well known to have a positive effect on GDP, and this project will boost broadband take-up in the region -- particularly in the business sector.

"The process has highlighted the challenges for any region seeking to invest in next-generation broadband," he says. "It requires careful compliance with European state aid guidelines, the development of complex contracts, and at a strategic level needs to balance intervention with natural market forces."

Kidney explains that funding has come from multiple sources -- BT has invested GBP 29.8 million, and GBP 18 million has come from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the EU under the ERDF Competitiveness Programme and the ERDF Rural Development Programme.

Analysys Mason led the consortium of consultancies that designed Northern Ireland's Next Generation Broadband award scheme. The project is expected to be complete by May 2011, by which time 85% of businesses across Northern Ireland will see the benefits of this investment, claims the consultancy. The contract will deliver a minimum of 2 Mbps to those businesses located in Lot 1 and 10 Mbps to those businesses in Lot 2. However, many businesses will experience higher speeds, especially those located closer to access points, says Analysys Mason.

"The project will involve the deployment of more fiber-optic cable deeper into the towns, villages, and countryside, and upgrades to equipment across 166 exchanges in Northern Ireland," adds Gordon Mooney, lead consultant on the project. "This will create a step change in the broadband speeds available to business and consumers, especially those closer to the fiber access points, and will provide a platform for further fiber expansion in the years to come."

Analysys Mason is currently working on a number of next-generation intervention projects worldwide. The public sector is taking an increasingly active interest in the evolution of telecom infrastructure, says the firm.


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