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BT superfast broadband deal for Scotland’s Highlands & Islands

BT has inked a deal with the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) that will see 84 per cent of the Scottish region getting superfast fibre-based broadband. 

The project will see several hundred thousand meters of new fibre built on land and undersea, bring higher broadband speeds to some seriously out of the way areas. 

On land, 800 kilometers of fibre backbone will be built to provide superfast speeds to distant areas. Over 19 undersea cable crossings (measuring 400 kilometers) will bring fibre broadband speeds to remote Scottish islands. 

BT superfast broadband deal for Scotland’s Highlands & Islands
A New Challenger Approaches – the Highlands & Islands gig it BT’s most challenging yet

Read Recombu Digital’s report on Fibre Broadband and BDUK

The majority of residents and businesses will likely benefit from FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connections which will provide speeds of up to 80Mbps. Only those within spitting distance of a fibre street cabinet will be able to get speeds approaching this headline however – the further you are away from your street cabinet the slower your download speeds are. It’ll be interesting to see how BT plans to connect some of the more out of the way locations across the region. 

BT’s managing director of next generation broadband Bill Murphy said: “There are incredible obstacles to overcome, not least building a fibre network across some of the most rugged terrain in the UK. And we have huge distances to cover as we lay our cables over the hills and glens and under the sea.” 

As well as FTTC, BT will also be connecting ‘some’ homes and businesses to FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) lines which offer faster speeds and don’t suffer from the distance difference that FTTC does. 

What those in the last 16 per cent of the Highlands & Islands will receive has yet to be announced. Under the terms of BDUK funding, those not due to benefit from superfast broadband will get speeds of at least 2Mbps. This will be most likely delivered via satellite broadband or bonded DSL lines, as the case has been in Cornwall. 

Where in the Highlands & Islands will BT fibre broadband arrive?

Prior to this announcement, BT had already begun work on laying a giant cable across the Shetland islands last December. BT Scotland’s work saw residents in Lerwick, Alness, Dingwall, Invergordon, Kirkwall, Tain and Thurso get a little pre-Christmas broadband boost last year. We can therefore expect to see increased deployment in the Shetlands, but nothing has been finalised yet.

Exactly which other areas in the Highlands & Islands will see superfast broadband first has yet to be announced. All seven local authorities across the area will hammer the details out with BT over the coming weeks.

A huge amount of money is being spent on the project, described as BT’s most ambitious and challenging yet. Money from the local government and Broadband Delivery for the UK (BDUK) for the plan comes to £126.4 million which is topped up with £12 from the HIE.

BT is contributing £19.4 million to the project, on top of its investment in its own commercial rollout, bringing the total to £146 million. There’s also a £2.5 million ‘innovation fund’ that will look at new and emerging technologies with a view to deploying these in the hardest to reach of places. Perhaps a deal can be done with the Tegola project, which has beamed high-speed wireless broadband to the Isle of Skye.

While there’s no estimated date for the project to be finished yet, work is expected to start this year. 

Image credit: Flickr user Scottish Ensemble


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