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British Telecom looks set to win the contract to ensure that every household and business in Northern Ireland has the option of broadband by 2005.

Twenty-seven companies and consortia responded to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment's tender, which was issued in July 2003. The DETI has indicated that BT had been judged the supplier likely to offer the most economically advantageous solution.

The goal of the contract is to make Northern Ireland the first region in the UK to have 100 per cent broadband coverage, offering a minimum of 512kbps to households and businesses by the end of 2005.

The (DETI) is now to enter into further negotiations with BT to finalise the details of the contract. Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment Ian Pearson said that he expected these final negotiations to be concluded before the end of February.

Although the DETI had init ially considered accepting a figure lower than 100 percent availability, a spokesperson for the DETI told ElectricNews.Net that the contract with BT would provide 100 percent coverage for the region. Those areas where ADSL is not technically viable would be covered by other technologies, such as wireless broadband. The exact mix of ADSL, wireless and other technologies is not specified. The spokesperson said that the DETI "hadn't been prescriptive."

The spokesperson was unable to indicate the total value of the contract, citing commercial sensitivities.

Late in 2003, in a related development, it was announced that the city of Derry is to host the new Northern Ireland Broadband Flagship Initiative which will explore the delivery of e-tourism, e-learning and e-government.

Derry was chosen for the project ahead of 19 other locations following a call for proposals made under the Northern Ireland Broadband Flagship Initiative; the scheme sought 'Flagship' projects that could act to raise awareness of broadband and encourage adoption by citizens and businesses. Organised by DETI, the programme aims to encourage local and international organisations to showcase broadband applications, services and content.

© ENN

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