BT today announced a £20 million investment in a major expansion of ultrafast* broadband to towns across Northern Ireland.This significant commercial investment by BT, the largest private sector investor in communications infrastructure, will see a further 140,000 premises gain access to ultrafast broadband.

The ambitious rollout, which is scheduled to be completed by March 2019, will predominantly involve the deployment of Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP)** technology, which is capable of providing ultrafast broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps – fast enough to download a two hour HD movie in twenty five seconds or a forty five minute long HD TV programme in just five seconds.

[Read more: Ultrafast broadband  - what is it and why is it important?]

The investment complements current joint investment programmes BT has underway with the Northern Ireland government, and when combined, will result in nearly a quarter of all premises having access to ultrafast broadband.

Mairead Meyer, Managing Director Networks, BT Northern Ireland said, “We’re delighted to be investing at this significant level, delivering against our local ambition to futureproof our Northern Ireland infrastructure and rank favourably amongst the best fibre networks in Europe.

Through our current investment programmes, 25 per cent of homes and businesses in Northern Ireland are scheduled to have access to ultrafast broadband by March 2019.These investments are underpinning Northern Ireland’s internet economy and society, and bringing an online experience like never before to consumers and organisations.

We’ve been sharing our fibre broadband vision with key stakeholders and today’s announcement is ultimately about driving choice and competition in this market because the network is available on an open wholesale basis to all broadband providers, meaning households and businesses will benefit from a choice of services, competitive pricing and products.”

As part of this investment, BT will recruit additional apprentices and graduates to play a part in this dynamic chapter in Northern Ireland’s broadband journey.Over the next 10 months, BT will recruit 42 apprentices and graduates, who’ll undertake a variety of roles in designing, planning and building BT’s Northern Ireland network. Recruitment begins this month and roles will be posted on bt.com/careers.

Roll-out of this latest phase of network will begin immediately and run until March 2019.The areas to benefit will be announced on a rolling basis and published on www.nibroadband.com.

Read more: Find out how superfast fibre optic broadband is transforming our lives

*Ultrafast broadband services are defined as offering download speeds of 100Mbps and above. A single HD movie stream typically requires 5Mbps. ** Fibre-To –the-Premises (FTTP) is a pure fibre connection, which involves the provision of a fibre optic cable from the telephone exchange to a home or business.