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Project Stratum

A broadband infrastructure project to extend access to superfast broadband services across Northern Ireland

Project Description

Project Stratum is a broadband infrastructure project that aims to utilise public funding of £165m to extend access to superfast broadband services to 79,000 premises across Northern Ireland.

The target intervention area for Project Stratum is predominantly rural – 97% of the 79,000 premises eligible to benefit from this intervention lie in areas classed by NISRA as band H, meaning settlements of less than 1,000 people or open countryside. Two thirds of these premises cannot access broadband services delivering speeds above 15 Mbps – the benchmark speed band for the project is 30 Mbps, aligned to the Draft Programme for Government and the National Broadband Scheme 2016, which is the procurement vehicle for the project and provides State aid cover.

The overarching objective of the project is to maximise broadband coverage across the target intervention area, and to ensure that no premises are beyond the scope of this intervention. A combination of full funding of £165m, along with vital industry contribution, will help DfE achieve these aims. The premises to benefit from Project Stratum will be in a position to avail of some of the highest available broadband speeds delivered through an NGA ‘full fibre’ solution, such as Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). This will provide citizens with the option of availing of broadband services with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, with speed packages available to consumers competitively priced on an open access network.

Project Status

The robust tender evaluation process for Project Stratum was followed by the necessary governance procedures in advance of Building Digital UK (BDUK) State aid Quality Assurance and final approval. The contract for Project Stratum has been awarded to Fibrus Networks Ltd and immediate deployment activities will see the first premises being connected in early 2021, with deployment of the new infrastructure to be completed by March 2024.

More than 76,000 premises will benefit from Project Stratum, based on a combination of available funding of £165m and the supplier’s significant investment in network build costs. DfE will work with Fibrus to confirm costings associated with the 2,500 premises currently out of the scope, and through continued engagement with DCMS, plans to secure the required funding in order for the remaining premises in the target intervention area to benefit from this intervention.

A dedicated Stratum portal has been developed by Fibrus to provide information to citizens on key aspects of implementation, including planned phasing and full deployment of NGA broadband infrastructure across the target intervention area. The information will be updated and expanded on a regular basis. A postcode checker will be provided for citizens to track deployment and phasing plans for their specific areas.

For further details, please go to http://www.hyperfastni.com/

SIB Involvement

Project Stratum is led by an SIB-appointed Project Director; SIB is also providing Legal Counsel for the project, and Financial Assessment expertise was provided for phase I of the procurement; Project Development Research services (Lotting) were sourced through SIB; and the Buy Social team have engaged with the project to ensure that there is appropriate cover in the contract, and will work with DfE and the Contractor to ensure that Buy Social commitments are delivered.

For further information contact:

Nigel Robbins, Project Director

E: nigel.robbins@economy-ni.gov.uk

Rural Scene Example of Target Intervention Area Project Stratum