Belfast Gets Ready For Ultrafast 1Gbps Broadband Network

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Belfast is reportedly using its broadband cash from George Osborne to build a broadband network apparently capable of speeds of 1Gbps

Residents and businesses in Belfast could soon be enjoying an ultrafast broadband network thanks to the government’s ‘connected cities’ plan.

Back in November last year, the government first unveiled its plans for connnected cities. They saw ten cities in the UK compete for part of the £100m Urban Broadband Fund (UBF) from the government to build out high-speed broadband and Wi-Fi networks.

1Gbps Network?

Last month the Chancellor George Osborne detailed the exact funding for ultrafast broadband and Wi-Fi for 10 British cities, as part of his efforts to make the UK “the technological hub of Europe” that can compete with the super connected cities of the Far East.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Belfast’s City Council has been guaranteed £6m of the UBF cash, but could receive up to £13.7m if the Government approves its plans.

The report states that Belfast intends to build a 1Gbps broadband network over the next three years, which should stimulate growth and attract foreign investment.

Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O Muilleoir reportedly said the news was the “icing on the cake” in terms of investment for the city.

“When you consider that Dublin spent €200,000 (£165,000) on the same scheme – you can see the difference in terms of spend,” he said. “There is a digital divide (in this city). This application is unprecedented. The plan put forward would transform that – there would be no one on the margins. They would have broadband access to some of the fastest broadband in Europe.

“This is a red letter day for the council. We did have a massive welcome for the investment package but this is the icing on the cake. Belfast was the greatest shipbuilding city – we could become the best connected city.”

“Belfast is becoming a multi-media hub – a creative hub – and we should be doing everything in our power to improve the overall product,” added DUP councillor Gavin Robinson. “Congratulations are owed to our officers for seizing the opportunity and ensuring that Belfast can produce.”

It is believed the scheme will see ultrafast broadband deployed to around 1.7 million properties and 200,000 businesses around the UK, not just Northern Ireland.

Mad speed

Superfast networks capable of 1Gbps are really truly cutting-edge. Google for example has only just recently begun laying cable for its 1Gbps broadband network in Kansas, and has developed a fibre optic cable deployment method that could allow for FTTP (fibre-to-the-premise) connections without having to dig trenches.

In reality, the majority of the UK will see much much slower speeds than 1Gbps. This is because only two thirds of the UK are to receive a 80Mbps FTTC-based broadband connection by 2015 thanks to BT’s £2.5bn fibre investment programme. And only a tiny amount (roughly 250,000) of households are set to receive a 300Mbps FTTP broadband connection.

Meanwhile the government is optimistically hoping its £530 million Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) pot will help bring fibre to the remaining third of the UK.

Recently, a former BT executive issued a stark warning about the lack of government investment into UK broadband, stating that the UK was at the “back of the pack” in the broadband stakes compared to rival European and Asian countries.

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