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Shetlands first in line for Scotland’s superfast island fibre

Shetland Islands residents are set to be the first to benefit from Digtial Scotland’s Highlands and Islands superfast broadband project. 

The superfast rollout will see FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connections start reaching homes and businesses in Lerwick in Shetland, delivering speeds of up to 80Mbps. 

BT has won the contract to supply Scotland’s more remote regions with superfast broadband. The Highlands and Islands project and aims to deliver superfast broadband, providing speeds of at least 25Mbps to 84 per cent of premises across the region by 2016. 

As will as homes and businesses in Lerwick in Shetland, a total of 6,500 premises across Nairn, Dingwall, Fort William and Keith on the mainland will soon also receive superfast broadband. 

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership is about rolling out reliable fibre services to our most remote areas.

“This is an important step towards ensuring that Scotland has world-class digital connectivity by 2020. Our investment, and that of our partners in the project, will extend access to superfast broadband across Scotland. This will be a key factor in ensuring Scotland’s long-term economic prosperity.” 

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands areas and the other covering the rest of Scotland

The Highlands and Islands plan is a joint venture between BT, the Scottish Government, BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) and HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise). The £146 million project will see the majority of locations benefit from an FTTC line, while some will get faster and future-proof FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) connections. 

BT’s FTTP lines currenlty deliver top download speeds of 330Mbps compared to the current 80Mbps top speed possible on an FTTC connection from BT. Speeds of FTTP lines also don’t decrease over distance as they do over the copper last mile of an FTTC connection. Tests have shown that BT can deliver speeds of up to 10Gbps with its FTTP technology. 

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, said: “The start on cabinets in Lerwick is great news for the local community.

“The project is working hard to rollout fibre broadband to our other island communities as soon as possible too. Major infrastructure work is scheduled to begin in the summer on the UK’s biggest sub-sea cabling project.

“It’s a mammoth and unprecedented undertaking – with 20 crossings in locations including Islay, Mull, Stornoway and South Uist.”

The HIE has published maps detailing the routes of the fibre rollout across Scotland and detailed which areas aren’t currently down to receive superfast broadband. Areas marked as ‘under evaulation’ could benefit in the future. 

The Superfast Cornwall project origially aimed to provide superfast connections to 85 per cent of the region until new technologies, including light overheal cables, saw FTTP broadband being delivered to 

The project is now looking to bring superfast broadband to 95 per cent of Cornish premises and it recently passed a 90 per cent milestone

Image: Geograph/Nicholas Mutton

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