Gone are the days when kids would be happy to unwrap a shiny new bike or the latest version of Monopoly on Christmas Day. What they want these days are faster internet connections, the latest technology and the ability to stay in contact with their friends – or ‘followers’ – at any time.
As such, Santa himself must be working on a new collaboration with both EE and Openreach*, as both companies have committed to ensuring Belfast is one of the most connected cities in the UK, if not Europe.
Fibre First is the fitting title for Openreach’s full-fibre broadband network development programme that is rolling out across the UK, with Belfast one of the latest cities due to have access to gigabit-capable broadband.
The news comes mere months after the Budget announcement that Belfast would be receiving additional funding of £350 million over the next 15 years as part of the Belfast Region City Deal to grow innovation, tourism-led regeneration, infrastructure, and employability and skills.
Much closer on the timeline is EE’s announcement to turn on 5G in six key cities across the UK by the middle of 2019, of which Belfast is one. The rest include London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester.
These faster 5G networks will provide higher speeds and greater reliability for consumers and corporate users, allowing those key focus areas mentioned above to become a priority and a reality.
Belfast’s digital sector already generates almost £900m worth of business globally but this renewed focus on the city’s connectivity will allow businesses of all sizes to truly bank on their potential and forge a space for themselves on the world stage.
Many of these businesses are start ups from the next generation with a worldly view and no sense of geographical limitation. They know a meeting can be held with colleagues, designers, suppliers or clients on the other side of the planet just by using their phone, so the opportunities are endless and are there to be explored.
A large proportion of these are often dubbed ‘millennials’, those born in the decade following 1985 and an affinity with technology that sets them apart, not knowing a time without the internet or mobile phones. For as long as they can remember they have been interacting and networking via online apps and social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
This makes them adept at picking up new trends and utilising technology to be more intuitive and flexible when it comes to developing business plans, marketing techniques and consumer outreach.
Of course, their parents might appreciate the original Neil Sedaka LP sourced from America thanks to t’internet but the city will appreciate their efforts in helping put the city on the map as a hotbed of innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and the connectivity and technology available to make that happen.
I would like to wish all our Irish News readers a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year.
*I cannot corroborate a corporate partnership between Santa and either EE or Openreach. The elves have sworn me to secrecy!