AQW 2628/22-27 – Telecommunications infrastructure in Mid Ulster

Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister for the Economy what plans are in place to improve the telecommunications infrastructure in Mid Ulster.

Minister for the Economy: Telecommunications policy is a reserved matter, led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) across the UK. The Department for the Economy (DfE) maintains regular contact with DCMS on all telecommunications matters and ensures that all local considerations are front and centre of any policy decisions taken regarding the improvement of connectivity in Northern Ireland.

Project Stratum, funded under the DUP/Conservative Confidence and Supply agreement, represents a total public investment of almost £200million that is transforming broadband connectivity, bringing gigabit capable service to 85,000 premises in rural areas across Northern Ireland. The total number of premises in the Mid Ulster Constituency that will benefit from Project Stratum is 9,695.

You may also be interested to learn that my Department has recently launched a Review to identify premises which may now be eligible for intervention but were not previously categorised as eligible because of the limitations in the datasets used, or because of coverage claims by infrastructure providers, which have now changed or cannot be sufficiently substantiated. Further information can be found at: project-stratum-state-aid-public-review.

There are also several ongoing initiatives which will help improve mobile connectivity throughout Northern Ireland.

The Shared Rural Network (SRN) is a project developed by the UK’s four mobile network operators (BT(EE), Vodafone, O2 and Three) and UK Government, it will deliver 4G coverage to 95% of the UK, enabling rural businesses and communities to thrive.

The SRN, when implemented as planned, will make 4G mobile broadband available to rural communities across Northern Ireland. As part of the legally binding commitments set out within the SRN, mobile coverage in Northern Ireland will reach 98% from at least one operator, and 85% from all four operators compared to 97% and 79% respectively today.

DfE understands the many challenges faced by our rural communities in terms of digital connectivity and indeed the issues faced by MNOs when they attempt to roll out telecommunications infrastructure.

To help address these challenges and issues, my officials led on the development of the recently published cross Departmental Mobile Action Plan for Northern Ireland (MAP NI).

Amongst other things, the MAP NI identifies the main issues that impact on the roll-out of mobile technologies and provides solutions that aim to remove these barriers, allowing us, amongst other things, to maximise the benefits of the SRN and other mobile technologies for citizens, businesses and visitors across Northern Ireland.

You can view MAP NI at