Project Stratum was developed to improve connectivity for premises unable to access broadband services of 30 Megabits per second or greater, primarily across rural areas of Northern Ireland. The project is managed by DfE, with public funding of £150m originally allocated as a result of the Confidence and Supply agreement between the DUP and the Conservative Government, along with additional funding of £15m secured through the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
Premises excluded from original intervention
In November 2020, Fibrus Networks were awarded a contract to make services available to approximately 76,000 premises within the target intervention area, using the £165m of available public funding, and their own substantial investment. However, this funding was not sufficient to reach all of the premises identified as eligible for intervention, and there were approximately 2,500 harder-to-reach premises that remained out-of-scope.
The Department for the Economy also identified approximately 6,000 eligible premises that were not considered for inclusion in Project Stratum.
Funding to address excluded premises
The Department for the Economy has secured the necessary additional capital funding of £32m to bring these 8,500 premises into Project Stratum. £22.3m has been provided by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, while DfE and DAERA will each provide £4.85m. The inclusion of these additional premises will bring the total number of premises to benefit from Project Stratum to 85,000. Building Digital UK, the division within DSIT which serves as the National Competency Centre for the project, aligned to the NBS 2016, has provided State aid Assurance for the extension, which utilises the headroom funding provision of the contract.
The deployment of the new full-fibre network to reach all 85,000 premises will continue across four extended quarters of network build, with Fibrus Networks expected to complete deployment by March 2025. Information on the deployment across all build phases can be accessed at Hyperfastni. This includes the ability to check availability at a specific premises.