The boss of BT’s business unit made some interesting comments recently when talking about the firm building out its fibre broadband and 5G strategy.

Speaking in City AM, Bas Burger said he feels “personally responsible” for the success of the UK economy and that the weight of keeping British businesses up and running is a heavy one.

He went on to reference BT being particularly important as the demand for bandwidth explodes amid the increasing use of the Internet of Things services and artificial intelligence, as well as cybersecurity becoming more and more prevalent in the modern economy.

Burger’s comments offer food for thought for the wider telecoms industry. Indeed, a recent paper by PwC, entitled ‘Perspectives from the Global Telecom Outlook 2023-2027’, predicts that global data consumption over telecom networks will nearly triple, from 3.4 million petabytes in 2022 to 9.7 million petabytes in 2027.

The role of the telecoms industry is perhaps particularly relevant in Northern Ireland right now with the Executive recently becoming functional again after a two-year absence.

The Assembly’s return offers the region’s economy an opportunity to implement something of a reset, to make up for lost time and get moving with plans that the Stormont hiatus may have stalled.

Telecoms firms have a significant role to play in that reset, given how digitally connected the economies of modern, thriving countries need to be.

Connectivity is king. Across a wide range of industries and sectors, from leading global corporations to small and medium-sized enterprises, good business is buttressed by access to reliable and high-speed internet connectivity.

The returning Stormont Ministers and MLAs will already have an overflowing list of economic areas that require attention, with infrastructure high on many lists.

The development and maintenance of telecoms infrastructure, including fibre-optic networks, mobile towers and broadband infrastructure, is essential for ensuring reliable and high-speed communications services are in place.

Telecoms firms invest heavily in building and maintaining infrastructure, often enabled by highly-skilled research and development teams, and these investments not only create jobs but also stimulate economic activity.

According to PwC, telecoms companies across the world will invest 342.1 billion US dollars in their networks in 2027 alone.

Innovation is another area of the economy that telecoms providers are at the forefront of, and must continue to be, as Northern Ireland businesses seek to keep finding different ways to improve what they do and how they do it.

These three things – connectivity, investment in infrastructure and innovation – were undoubtedly among the main factors influencing Bas Burger’s remarks on BT’s supportive economic role.

The local industry as a collective is poised and ready to work closely with private companies and public sector bodies to ensure Northern Ireland plc has the connectivity required to take advantage of the reset opportunity offered by the Executive’s return.


By David Armstrong, CEO, b4b Group