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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 February, 2004, 17:29 GMT
NI's broadband supplier chosen
Eddie O'Gorman
BBC Northern Ireland business correspondent

The government has chosen BT as the "preferred supplier" for installing broadband services across Northern Ireland.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment is seeking the best way to provide "comprehensive and equitable broadband services" across the region.

Twenty-seven companies had competed for the contract which was put up for tender last July.

The deal is seen as an important milestone in the government's vision for telecommunications in the province.

The DETI wants NI to have 100% coverage of broadband services

Further negotiations are planned between the DETI and BT and Enterprise Minister Ian Pearson said the deal offered a "real opportunity".

"It means that Northern Ireland has a real opportunity to be the first region of the UK to have 100% coverage of broadband services," he said.

"This will allow all our businesses, even those in the most rural locations, to avail of broadband services to compete in the global market."

The minister added that the tender had attracted a good response from industry, and that the evaluation of bids had been very thorough.

"The process clearly identified that the bid by BT offers the best prospect of securing a value for money service for the people and businesses of Northern Ireland," he said.

However, Mr Pearson also said that a number of issues remained to be resolved before the Department was in a position to confirm a contract with BT.

"Further negotiations will be held with the company and final decisions will not take place until they have been satisfactorily concluded. I expect this to be later this month," he added.

Last October, DETI published the government's plan for telecommunications in Northern Ireland which set a number of targets.

  • Northern Ireland should become the leading broadband region in the UK

  • The province should be the first region in the UK to have 100% coverage of broadband services

  • That there should be 100% broadband access for all households and businesses by the end of 2005.

    At present only 60% of the population have access to broadband, with a take-up of barely 10%.

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