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Fibre optic broadband lands on the Isles of Scilly

BT has made landfall with a recycled undersea fibre cable that will bring superfast broadband to the Isles of Scilly by the end of this year.

The cable has been cut from a 939km line that’s been lying unused on the seabed between Cornwall and northern Spain since 2006, with one end now lying on Porthcressa Beach in the main Scilly isle of St Mary’s.

If this summer’s work connecting to the island and reconnecting it to the UK goes to plan, around 2,200 homes and businesses spread across Scilly’s five inhabited islands will be able to upgrade their internet connections to superfast broadband.

The Scilly Isles' new fibre optic cable is pulled ashore to begin reconnection
The Scilly Isles’ new fibre optic cable is pulled ashore to begin reconnection

Jeremy Steventon-Barnes, Superfast Cornwall operations director for BT, said: “Bringing superfast broadband to the Isles of Scilly is an immensely challenging project for a wide range of engineering and environmental reasons, and a big team from across BT is working with our public sector partners to make it happen.

“The fact that we have been able to make use of an existing cable makes a great deal of sense from an environmental and cost point of view.”

Until now, the Isles of Scilly have been linked to the mainland by a very slow radio link to Land’s End, 45km away, which can manage only 3-4Mbps.

The 12,184 tonne cable ship Resolute cut the cable at two points in the Atlantic – about 100km and 15km off Land’s End – using a robot submarine and a specialised boat.

Resolute will be stationed off Porthcressa Beach while the cable is pulled ashore and linked to the local network on Scilly.

The cable carried high speed international communications from Land’s End to to Santander in Spain for 11 years before it was replaced by a faster link in 2006.

The link-up is part of the £132m Superfast Cornwall project between the European Regional Development Fund, BT and Cornwall Council, which aims to bring fibre broadband to 95 per cent of homes and businesses in Cornwall by the end of this year.

Amanda Martin, chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, said: “Superfast Broadband will create exciting opportunities for new and existing businesses. Its installation will also help our islands become more economically viable and provide benefits for future generations.” 

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