The deal, worth around £165 million, aims to provide broadband connectivity to around 80,000 premises across the country

Multiple sources suggest that Northern Irish altnet Fibrus may be about to swipe a major government contract from BT’s grasp. The two operators are directly contesting for the £165 million Project Stratum fibre deployment contract, which seeks to improve Northern Ireland’s rural broadband coverage.

Project Stratum itself was devised around 2017 with the intention of delivering ultra-fast broadband to poorly served areas of Northern Ireland. The project targets 79,000 premises, 97% of which are rural and located in communities of 1,000 people or fewer. Since the project’s conception in 2017, progress has been slow, but the contract is expected to be awarded this October.

After initially getting the interest of many players, numbers slowly dwindled, with Granahan McCourt dropping out back in May leaving only Fibrus and BT to contest the contract.

Fibrus is something of a newcomer to the Northern Irish market, having been founded in 2018. Nonetheless, it has found quick success; prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Fibrus had goals of rolling out fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) to around 15,000 premises by mid-202, with around 150,000 premises targeted by 2024. 

Beyond Fibrus, alternative broadband providers are scarce in Northern Ireland, with most premises covered by either Openreach or Virgin Media. Thus, if Fibrus were to win out over BT it would be no small feat, since it would indicate that the project has a lot of faith in Fibrus’ ability to scale up quickly, while BT would face no such challenge. 


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