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2010 Telecoms Report

This report finds that major advances have been achieved in the quality and extent of telecommunications provision in Northern Ireland and, combined with near term plans, the overall provision places it among the leading regions in terms of international standards.

The MATRIX Telecommunications Horizon Panel found that the advanced telecoms services will support world class business activity and they have identified six economic opportunities that
relate to multi-billion dollar markets with strong growth prospects.

This report builds on the work of Matrix, the NI Science-Industry panel, in which it was clearly shown that Telecommunications plays a key enabling role in the knowledge economy and in driving high technology industry opportunities.

It is the result of a short focused exercise drawing heavily on the expertise within the Telecoms Horizon panel.

A multidisciplinary opportunity

NI has made great strides in its telecoms infrastructure in recent years, bringing the region to a very competitive position:

  • Since 2004 over 99% of premises are able to access a fixed line broadband service and there is 100% availability of broadband to the region;
  • NI’s Next Generation Broadband Project (NGBP) will make broadband with speeds up to 40Mbps available to 85% of NI businesses by 2011; and,
  • Multiple external links are now in place, including direct international connectivity via Project Kelvin, which provides a low-latency link to North America.

Opportunities for growth

Opportunities for future growth were identified in the following six areas based on the existing capability in NI, the significant role of telecommunications and the overall scale of the market opportunity. In terms of economic gains, all six opportunities will make a medium or major impact
on the NI economy. Importantly, the economic benefits of four of the six opportunities
will be felt within five years, with ICT at a stage where it can make an economic
impact right away.

Key recommendations

In the course of this work it has become clear to the Horizon Panel that many of the opportunity areas are already being progressed in NI. The panel encourages business in general to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the improved telecoms environment and specifically endorses the activities of those progressing the opportunities listed above.
In addition the panel makes the following recommendations for action to ensure that this overall opportunity to exploit telecoms capability is realised:

The panel recommends that each of the opportunities is fully supported within the overall MATRIX agenda and by policy makers in NI so each will reach its full potential for the benefit of NI’s economy.
There should be sustained marketing and communications campaign, jointly delivered by Government and Telecoms suppliers that is focused on three key areas:

  • Communicating the availability of next generation services across NI with an emphasis on both NI based business users and on those businesses with the potential to invest in the region;
  • Articulating the business value of next generation telecommunications across different industry sectors to make the case for investment by individual companies. Opportunities to facilitate business to business interactions on this area are preferred over government or supplier led communications;
  • Promotion of collaboration among businesses seeking advanced telecommunications, in alignment with the overall concept of collaboration endorsed by MATRIX, to aggregate demand and provide more cost effective solutions to their needs.
The panel believes that, where possible, fixed line infrastructure supporting open-access telecoms should be a pre-requisite for any multi-occupancy business development and that this should be achieved through changes in planning regulations.
Further engagement between business, HE/FE institutions and government departments is required to identify and develop the skills required to support these opportunities, and future opportunities which may arise. At this point it is clear that Northern Ireland is in a strong position with respect to the Telecommunications environment due to the 100% broadband rollout, Project Kelvin and NGBP. However, it is clear that competing countries and regions are continuing their efforts to improve in this area due to the economic necessity for advanced digital interaction. Therefore, this report represents a snapshot and continued assessments on a “light touch” basis will be necessary to support the overall agenda of MATRIX and to position NI as a leading knowledge economy.

The panel

Bryan Keating

CIP Partnership

Dr. Keating is Managing Partner of CIP Partnership. Bryan co-founded CEM Computers Ltd, and CEM Systems Ltd., a leader in access control system for airports worldwide and over the last 30 years, he has been a board member and an investor in a dozen private high-tech companies based in Northern IreIand.

Norman Apsley


Norman Apsley OBE

Norman Apsley joined the Northern Ireland Science Park Foundation in 2000 as its first Chief Executive on return from England where he was involved for some thirty years in applied research and the commercialisation of research.

Sinclair Stockman

Digital NI 2010

Sinclair Stockman has an extensive career in telecommunications and software engineering. His early career included development of software tools which led to the development of the first ISO certified environment for software development worldwide.

Ben Greene


Ben Greene is the Director of SAP Research Belfast. In this role he is responsible for coordinating the work of SAP Research in Belfast with that of the other Research Centres and aligning the research work with the business goals of SAP.

Davy Sims


Broadcaster, International Social Media Producer Strategist & Trainer. Speaker. Former BBC Editor & TEDxBelfast organiser. Director several social enterprises.

Jim McLaughlin


Jim McLaughlin

Jim McLaughlin, OBE, a physicist and Fellow of the Institute of Physics, has developed significant initiatives within research, technology transfer, outreach and teaching since 1985. Presently, as a Professor in the University of Ulster School of Engineering he is also the Director of the Engineering Research Institute and Director of NIBEC.

Pat McKillen


Senior Vice President at Citigroup.

Denis Murphy


Denis Murphy was Chairman of Mobile Cohesion, a company he had co-founded after leaving Openwave in 2002. At Openwave he was Country Manager for Ireland and also responsible for the development of the company’s field organisation in Europe.