Northern Ireland

Broadband provider Fibrus set to win £165m NI contract

A stock image of fibre optic lights

Broadband provider Fibrus is set to be awarded a significant broadband project by the Department for the Economy, BBC News NI understands.

The £165m Project Stratum aims to improve rural internet connectivity.

Up to 80,000 homes are set to benefit from access to superfast broadband across Northern Ireland.

The deal was first reported by an industry publication but a source close to the process has confirmed details to BBC News NI.

The tender process has now entered a standstill period after the appointment of a preferred bidder.

The official announcement is expected before the end of September, provided the final formalities of the tender progress unhindered.

The total funding for Project Stratum is £165m, with £150m coming from the confidence and supply agreement deal signed between the DUP and the Conservative Party in 2017.

NI coverage problems

Fibrus and Openreach were in the running for the contract.

A spokesman for Openreach, which is working on expanding its existing infrastructure, said: "The Stratum tender process is still ongoing, so we can't comment on that.

"However, our full fibre build continues, with the aim of reaching at least 525,000 premises by the end of March 2021 and we don't plan to stop there."

The latest Connected Nations report from Ofcom suggests Northern Ireland has the best full fibre coverage.

However, the September report said the number of premises unable to access decent internet is higher when compared to other UK nations.

A Department for the Economy spokesperson said: "DfE cannot respond to any speculation regarding its intent to award a contract for Project Statrum."

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