Council FFNI Consortium Out for Procurement for Full Fibre Ultrafast Broadband
May 10, 2020
Ten Northern Ireland councils have been working together since June 2018 to create and build the Full Fibre Northern Ireland Consortium (FFNI). This Consortium comprises of all 10 councils outside of Belfast and hosted by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
This aim of FFNI is to expand the high-speed fibre broadband footprint across the region to ensure the availability and affordable connectivity in Northern Ireland to support future growth and prosperity. The £15m funding will allow the installation of ultrafast fibre ‘gigabit capable’ broadband to public sector buildings across these ten council areas.
The procurement of the fibre infrastructure is currently under way to identify the preferred bidders for the Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) and RGC projects by mid-June 2020. The project will transform connectivity for almost 1,000 public sector sites and deliver a major increase in GVA across the region through improved connectivity.
Currently around 44% of premises in Northern Ireland have access to full fibre connectivity; outside of the major urban areas, the figure is much lower. With responsibility for promoting economic development, and local knowledge, the councils within the FFNI Consortium are in the ideal position to drive fibre infrastructure in areas that need it most.
Chairman of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Capital Projects Committee, Councillor Thomas Beckett commented: “Our residents and local businesses depend on us to deliver high quality public services and connectivity is essential to that. The council is keen to keep pace with what technology can offer our local communities; and the contribution it can make to our digital transformation ambitions. To this end the council will be making an in principle investment decision for consideration by the council’s Capital Projects Committee prior to the award of this contract.”
Alderman Allan Ewart MBE, Chairman of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Development Committee added: “FFNI secured £15m of LFFN funding in March 2019 from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The council welcomes this £1.5 million investment for our council area. It will contribute to the development of important telecoms infrastructure and full fibre at all our council facilities. This investment has the potential to provide improved digital connectivity and unlock considerable economic value across the city. It will make it easier for suppliers to provide full fibre to nearby business and domestic properties.”
The UK Government's Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman, said, "We are taking the next step in our plans to future proof Northern Ireland’s broadband for a generation.
“This £15 million investment from the UK government will boost public services and buildings with gigabit broadband and encourage suppliers to improve connections to nearby homes and businesses in the process.
“Across the UK we are also investing £5 billion to make sure hard-to-reach areas are not left behind.”
The FFNI Consortium believes that the future of telecommunications infrastructure in Northern Ireland is vital to economic growth, and full fibre connectivity is the key to ensuring high-speed connectivity for current and future generations. This award will allow the 10 local authorities within FFNI to future proof their network connectivity requirements for the next 20 to 25 years.
The importance of connectivity and high bandwidth has been highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed us further into a digital world with businesses forced to work online through video conferencing and schoolchildren learning over virtual classrooms. These changes in behaviour are likely to have lasting effects when the economy starts to pick up and the roll out of Ultrafast fibre will help to ensure that internet connectivity is resilient enough for future demands.
Ultrafast broadband is the next generation of connectivity, capable of delivering download speeds of 1 Gigabit (Gb) or 1000 Megabits (Mb) per second using pure optical fibre.